Press Release

The American Association of Poison Control Centers Celebrates National Health Education Week by Bringing Awareness to Safe Use, Storage, and Disposal of Medicine

October 12, 2016 | Download PDF

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Sponsored by the Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE), National Health Education Week (NHEW, is celebrated during the third full week of October and brings national attention to public health issues and the role of health education in society. As the misuse and abuse of opioids continues to be an urgent public health threat, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) seeks to raise awareness around the opioid epidemic, as well as promote the safe storage and disposal of these medicines, during NHEW.

Prescription opioids, otherwise known as narcotics, are pharmaceuticals that relieve pain. While most pain prescription and over-the-counter medicines can be helpful when taken as directed, when not taken properly, they can also be harmful, and in some cases deadly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), In 2008, drug poisoning became the #1 cause of injury-related death in the U.S., surpassing both fatalities due to motor vehicle accidents and firearms. Additionally, the CDC has estimated that more than half a million people died from drug overdoses from 2000 to 2014, and more people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any year on record. “From January through September 2016 alone, the nation’s poison centers managed approximately 50,330 cases involving opioid exposures,” said Stephen T. Kaminski, JD, AAPCC CEO and Executive Director. “Over the last two decades, opioid dependence and opioid-related deaths have reached epidemic proportions in our country. AAPCC has, and will continue to support poisoning prevention efforts around the safe use, storage, and disposal of prescriptions opioids.”

In July 2016, President Obama signed into law the Comprehensive Addition and Recovery Act (CARA), authorizing over $181 million in funding to improve access to treatment for opioid use disorders and to strengthen prevention efforts to reduce drug misuse and opioid related deaths. “AAPCC applauds the passage of this historic legislation. Through the Poison Help hotline, 1-800-222-1222, poison centers manage thousands of calls each year about exposures to medications, or pharmaceuticals. In combination with poison centers’ ongoing ability to quickly administer expert, confidential medical treatment advice when medication errors occur, this new opioid initiative will further expand Americans’ access to lifesaving resources and treatment,” said Kaminski.

Another important piece in addressing the prescription opioid epidemic is the safe storage and disposal of these medicines. AAPCC encourages the public to make sure all medications, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements, are stored in a secure location, up, away, and out of reach of children, and in their original, child-resistant containers.

“Additionally, never share your medications with others, and when your medicines expire or are no longer needed, it’s important to dispose of them in the correct way. Proper prescription drug disposal programs, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Prescription Drug Take-Back initiatives, prevent unnecessary tragedies,” said Krista Osterthaler, AAPCC Director of National Outreach.

The DEA’s next national drug take-back day is scheduled for Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM, local time. On October 22, the DEA, will host over 5,000 collection sites in communities across the nation where local residents can return their unused, unwanted, or expired prescription drugs for safe disposal. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. Throughout the 11 previous Take Back events, the DEA and its partners have taken in over 6.4 million pounds of pills.

Collection sites in every local community can be found by going to

For more information on how to safely dispose of medicine, visit AAPCC’s Safe Medicine Disposal. webpage:

For more information, the media may contact Angela Gonzales, AAPCC Associate Manager, Communications and Outreach, at 703-894-1865 or

AAPCC supports the nation’s 55 poison center members in their efforts to treat and prevent drug, consumer product, animal, environmental and food poisoning. Members staff the Poison Help hotline at

1-800-222-1222 that provides free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year from toxicology specialists, including nurses, pharmacists, physicians and poison information providers. In addition, AAPCC maintains the only poison information and surveillance database in the United States, providing real-time monitoring of unusual poisoning patterns, chemical exposures and other emerging public health hazards. AAPCC partners with federal agencies such as HRSA, CDC, FDA and EPA, as well as private industry. Be prepared for a poisoning emergency and program the Poison Help phone number into your mobile telephone today – 1 (800) 222-1222.

To learn more, visit, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@AAPCC).

For More Information

  • Edward V. Walrod

    • Associate Manager for Media and Public Relations
    • Email: media at aapcc dot org
    • 703-894-1863

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