Google lends map expertise to support DEA's Prescription Drug Take Back Day

By Jonah Comstock
11:34 am

This Saturday, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) will host its third National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. And this time, Google is helping out. 

The search engine company and tech giant announced in a blog post yesterday that it would implement several features to support the DEA's efforts to combat the opioid crisis, starting with a Google Maps-based locator tool to help people find drop-off sites participating in Saturday's program.

"Research by the federal government has shown that prescription drug abuse is a large driver of opioid addiction, and that the majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family or friends, often from a home medicine cabinet," Susan Molinari, Google's vice president for public policy, Americas, wrote in a blog post. "The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has found that one way that Americans can help prevent drug abuse and addiction is to properly dispose of unneeded or expired prescription drugs. Yet many people aren’t aware of, or can’t easily find, prescription drug disposal programs in their communities."

The map allows users to enter their zip code to find the closest site, or manually scroll around the country to find sites. The last Take Back day, in October 2017, had participation from 5,321 collection sites and collected nearly a million pounds of prescription drugs. This year there will be more than 5,600 sites.

“Take Back Day helps to keep drugs out of the hands of abusers and potentially saves lives by removing unused painkillers and controlled drugs from homes,” DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson said in a statement. “The more unused painkillers or controlled drugs we can help to remove from homes, the more potential lives will be saved. The home medicine cabinet is a frequent target of prescription drug abusers and often provides access to prescription medication. We need the help of the public to dispose of this unwanted source of abuse. Take Back Day is an effective tool for addressing the opioid crisis in America.” 

Google has supported the Partnership for Drug Free kids in its search interface since 2015, surfacing the organization's help line when users search for terms related to teen drug addiction. Molinari announced yesterday that has pledged $750,000 in matching gifts and other grants to help expand the Partnership's Parent Helpline. Google also continues to improve the information about opioids that it surfaces in response to search queries, Molinari wrote.

"There are no easy answers to a challenge as large as the opioid crisis, but we’re committed to doing our part to ensure that people in every corner of the country have access to the resources they need to address this urgent public health emergency," she wrote.


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