Google teams up with DEA, CVS, Walgreens on opioid disposal efforts

Google Maps drug disposal
Google has launched a new initiative to combat the opioid crisis by providing drug disposal information through Google Maps and searches. (Google)

Search queries for “medication disposal near me” reached an all-time high on Google last month as the country continues to face a public health crisis with opioid addiction and overdoses.

As part of Google’s effort to combat the opioid crisis and help people safely remove excess or unused opioids from their homes, Google Maps and Google Search will now provide information about drug disposal locations year-round.

Google Maps users can type in queries like “drug drop off near me,” or “medication disposal near me” and Google Maps will display permanent disposal locations at local pharmacies, hospitals or government buildings so consumers can safely discard unneeded medication, the company said.

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Working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, state agencies and CVS and Walgreens, Google is starting with a pilot program with 3,500 locations nationwide, with a focus on seven states. The company plans to incorporate additional locations and statewide data.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 130 people in the U.S. die from an opioid overdose every day, and Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than a car accident. The majority of prescription drug abuse (53%) starts with drugs obtained from family and friends, according to a report from HHS and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

By making it easy for consumers to get information on disposal sites, it can help people get rid of leftover medication sitting in their medicine cabinets, Google officials said.

“By bringing opioid disposal site information to Google Maps, Americans are only a search away from helping to address the opioid crisis. This type of consumer empowermentproviding easily accessible datais the kind of innovation needed to improve healthcare,” said Ed Simcox, HHS chief technology officer.

In a blog post, Dane Glasglow, VP of product at Google Maps, said Google partnered with the DEA last year for National Prescription Take Back Day by developing a Google Maps API locator tool to help people dispose of their prescription drugs at temporary locations twice a year, an idea born out of the Opioid Code-A-Thon hosted by HHS.

RELATED: Survey: How hospital leaders are responding to the opioid crisis

“With the help of the tool, the DEA and its local partners collected a record 1.85 million pounds of unused prescription drugs in 2018,” Glasglow said.

“Companies like Walgreens and CVS Health, along with state governments in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan and Pennsylvania have been instrumental in this project, contributing data with extensive lists of public and private disposal locations,” Glasglow said.

The DEA is also working with Google to provide additional location data to expand the pilot.

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