Google Maps has launched a new effort to combat the opioid crisis.
Last week, Google Maps released a pilot project, making it easier for Americans to find places to dispose unwanted prescription drugs. Now, by searching, “drug drop off near me,” or “medication disposal near me,” in Google, you will find drug disposal sites near you. The pilot will direct users to pharmacies, hospitals, and government buildings where they can safely dispose of extra or unneeded opiates. The program will start with 3,500 locations nationwide.
“Medication Disposal Near Me”
“Last month, we saw that search queries for ‘medication disposal near me’ reached an all-time high on Google,” Dane Glasgow, vice president of product for Google Maps, wrote in a blog post announcing the initiative.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 72,000 people in the US are predicted to have died from drug overdoses in 2017 — that’s nearly 200 a day. Those numbers are higher than 2016, which was already a record year in which roughly 64,000 people in the US died from overdoses. At least two-thirds of drug overdose deaths in 2016 and 2017 were linked to opioids.
In response, in 2018, Google Maps developed a drug disposal locator for National Prescription Take Back Day – which saw 1.85 million pounds of returned drugs. The new pilot seeks to make locations more accessible year-round. The concept originated with a winning entry in last year’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Opioid Code-a-Thon,” which challenged participants to develop technology-driven solutions to the opioid crisis.
“While these events serve to increase awareness … a single day is not nearly enough to address the scope of misuse in our communities,” Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the HHS, and Dr. Monda Siddiqui, the agency’s chief data officer, said in a statement. “Regular access to drug disposal sites year-round is essential.”
One Search Away
Ed Simcox, Health and Human Services chief technology officer, stated in an official release, “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 empowerment – providing easily accessible data – is the kind of innovation needed to improve health care.”
In collaboration with Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, each state government contributed data on public and private locations where people can safely dispose of unneeded medications to make the pilot possible. While the pilot doesn’t yet include all disposal sites available, it’s an essential first step that starts the process and provides helpful information to consumers.
Google is just the latest heavy-hitter working to fight the opioid epidemic. In 2017, CVS began limiting opioid prescriptions in an effort to combat the crisis. And, in 2018, Walmart provided a new way to dispose of medication while placing a limit on how much medication it would supply.
“Addiction to opioids can start after just five days of use, and the majority of prescription drug abuse (53%) starts with drugs obtained from family and friends,” Dane Glasglow, said in the post. “That’s why Google wants to help people get rid of leftover pills that are sitting in people’s medicine cabinets, and to make drug disposal locations easier for people to find with a simple search.”