While our country has made significant strides to combat the opioid epidemic in recent years, tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused substantial challenges for folks battling drug addictions. In 2020, Iowa recorded 212 opioid overdoses—a 35 percent increase from the previous year. Sadly, many of these tragic deaths are the result of misused prescription pain relievers, stimulants, and tranquilizers or sedatives—often taken straight from family and friends’ medicine cabinets.
Tackling this issue is going to take an all-of-the-above approach. In Congress, I’ve worked in a bipartisan way to support prevention, treatment, and recovery to save lives and livelihoods. But we need individual Iowans to step up and do their part as well.
Many households in Iowa, and across the country, have medicine cabinets and bathroom drawers filled with bottles of unused prescription drugs. That’s why I’m encouraging folks to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, tomorrow, Saturday, April 24, 2021, from 10:00am – 2:00pm. This is a great opportunity to take inventory of medication that’s needed, and to get rid of anything that isn’t. It’s also a proactive step Iowans and all Americans can take to keep their families and communities safe.
While drug take back programs are just one piece of the puzzle, critical preventive measures like these can help save lives in communities across our state—and I encourage Iowans to find their nearest collection site and participate.
Knowing how important these initiatives are, I worked with Senator Grassley to get bipartisan legislation to increase participation in federal prescription drug take-back programs included as part of the comprehensive opioid legislation that was signed into law. And just last October, the Drug Enforcement Administration collected 492.7 tons of medicine at 4,587 Take Back Day collection sites nationwide.
On Saturday, I hope all Iowans will partake in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Visit https://takebackday.dea.gov/ to find a location near you. By following simple steps and properly disposing unneeded medicines at collection sites across the country, we can help stop accidental poisoning, misuse, and overdose.
As we’ve seen throughout this past year, Iowans look out for our fellow Iowans—and this is yet another way to do just that.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.