Google Maps has teamed up with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to set up locations where people can dispose of excess or unneeded prescription drugs. Google Maps and the DEA are rolling out a new feature in advance of the “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” on April 28 to drive people to take leftover medication to disposal sites.
“Using Google Maps API, our team worked with the DEA to create a locator tool for the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day this Saturday, April 28. The locator tool can help anyone find a place near them to safely dispose of leftover prescription medications,” the search giant said in a blog post on Wednesday.
Users just need to enter their address or ZIP code into Google Maps to get the locations of nearby recycling centers and similar drop-off facilities.
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Google will also promote the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day by flagging the event below the search bar on its main page. The event is conducted every six months. According to the DEA, its last Drug Take Back Day helped in destroying a record weight of excessive drugs. However, the exact number of opioids that were destroyed is not known because the agency cannot separate opioids from other types of medicines that were destroyed.
According to Google, prescription drugs stimulate opioid addiction, and the “majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends,” often from the home medicine cabinet. According to recent studies, less than 25% of the people who start abusing prescription opioids obtained them from doctors.
Most of the people who get opioids obtain them illegally from friends or relatives; therefore, take-back programs should help in this regard. It has also been found that patients who are prescribed opioids are not the ones who misuse them. In 2016, over 214 million opioid prescriptions were handed out by doctors. Current numbers suggest that 115 people die from overdose every day. Approximately 42,249 people—or 66.4% of all drug overdose deaths—were from an opioid overdose in 2016, a 100% increase from 2015, notes Fortune.
Various research papers suggest that initially, opioid users start with drugs prescribed by a doctor to help with pain. However, over time, they develop a tolerance for the drug, resulting in the need for higher doses, eventually leading to abuse of the prescription painkillers.
Susan Molinari, vice president of public policy for Google, said the company is concerned about opioid addiction, which has affected families in every corner of the United States. Thus, the company decided to render its technical expertise to help families combat the epidemic.
Google is directing its efforts to ensure that the public understands the risk of opioid abuse and can locate the resources that are available for help. Google Search will also provide information about opioid addiction and prescription drugs. Google is an undisputed leader in the search arena, and therefore, it has the tools that are needed to deliver the right information. In addition, the search giant is working with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, which offers free counseling about substance abuse among children. To help this cause, Google will donate $750,000 in matching gifts and other grants to help expand the parent helpline, Molinari said.
In addition to these short-term measures, Google also announced a commitment to long-term measures. In collaboration with the DEA and several state governments, the company will gather data on year-round take-back options for future integration with Google Maps. Over the past few months, Google has also been holding talks with Congress and the White House on the opioid crisis, according to its latest disclosure. The search giant spent more money on lobbying the federal government about this issue than any other organization.
Google’s efforts to spread awareness about this social cause comes at a time when technology companies are in hot water for their roles in spreading misinformation. Recently, the head of the Food and Drug Administration asked Internet providers to help get rid of the web of illegal offers of prescription opioids that have made the drug problem even worse.
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said that it is also time for Internet providers to streamline their efforts to stop child pornography and prevent the illegal listing of painkillers. Gottlieb also said that the FDA would meet with the Internet company’s executives and advocacy groups to discuss the matter.