The Department of Justice (DOJ), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has set a final action date of March, 2014 to implement the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010. The legislation, which amends section 302 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 822), became public law in October 2010. The Act gives the Attorney General authority to develop new regulations, under the Controlled Substances Act, to govern the disposal of controlled substances by DEA registrants and ultimate users. The rule will restructure existing regulations concerning disposal (including those applicable to reverse distributors) and establish a comprehensive regulatory framework for the safe, secure collection and disposal of controlled substances. Ultimate users, without being registered, will be able to give a controlled substance to a DEA-authorized collector for disposal, and long-term care facilities will be able to dispose of controlled substances on behalf of residents. 

Most state and local drug take-back programs cannot collect or dispose of controlled substances. To do so, a program must have authority from DEA and have law enforcement officers collect all controlled substances. With drug take-back programs on the rise due in part to increasing non-medical use of controlled substances, the forthcoming controlled substance disposal regulations will help fill a void other programs do not address. Yet unlike the currently challenged programs in Alameda and King Counties, these regulations will not require any entity to establish or operate a collection or disposal program. Therefore, these programs may be slow to proliferate despite the goodwill and enhanced consumer presence that DEA identified as potential advantages to entities opting to maintain a disposal program. However, note that those disposal programs already in existence will need to begin aligning their policies and procedures with DEA’s regulations once released.