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More research is needed before officials heavily invest in prescription drug take-back programs as a key component of substance abuse prevention strategies, a new report concludes. Current findings suggest that these programs’ efficiency varies considerably, according to the report by Carnevale Associates.

Drug take-back programs are becoming an increasingly popular way to provide people with a secure and convenient way to dispose of unused medications. Carnevale Associates surveyed 148 programs to better understand them and their effectiveness. They found no evidence that these programs affect prescription drug abuse.

“Until research can properly assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of take-backs, scarce prevention resources should fund proven policies, programs, and practices,” notes the report. These include prescription drug monitoring programs, and initiatives to modify doctors’ prescribing behaviors.

The report states that data are needed to determine whether take-backs reduce the size or scope of the prescription drug epidemic. In order to do that, researchers must determine what percentage of controlled drugs is consumed and what percentage is returned. Limited data suggest that mail-back and event-based programs appear less efficient than ongoing bin-based programs, according to the report.


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