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Big tech companies team up with DEA for opioid drop-off day

Big tech companies team up with DEA for opioid drop-off day
© Smartstock/iStock/Thinkstock Photos

Some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are teaming up with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for Saturday’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Facebook, Google and Twitter will work with the Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) to help participants locate drop-off locations for any prescription drugs they have at home.

The national campaign has seen results before, with the DEA reporting that it collected more than 880,000 pounds of prescription drugs and vape devices last fall.

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Facebook is providing an automated messenger service that can answer frequently asked questions about event logistics, provide treatment recommendations and help interested parties find drop-off spots near them. The location finder links to Google Maps.

Google has integrated the drop off sites into its Maps application, allowing users to quickly find the closest site by inputting their ZIP code.

Twitter created a custom emoji for the event that will be added to the hashtags #TakeBackDay and #DEATakeBackDay to boost awareness.

CSIP will also be running online ads providing info about the event and linking to the automated Facebook messenger service.

More than 71,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses since 2019 according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, and experts have expressed concern that the coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate the situation.

“The majority of prescription drug misuse in our nation comes from drugs found in the medicine cabinet in our homes,” CSIP Executive Director Marjorie Clifton said in a statement. “While it may seem surprising, statistically, most addiction and misuse starts in our households with friends or family, and flushing medications or putting them in your trashcan is still hazardous. While we are sheltered at home and cleaning out our closets, this is a great opportunity for every household to help fight our nation’s opioid crisis.”

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Tech companies like Facebook have been active in promoting awareness and public education about America’s opioid crisis. At the same time, their platforms have allegedly been used to organize the sale of the same drugs they are trying to reduce the use of.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint filed earlier this year, Facebook critics provided several instances of drug dealers using hashtags and comment sections to promote their products.

Facebook removed 5.8 million pieces of drug-related content in the second quarter of 2020, according to the platform’s most recent transparency report.

“We take a number of steps to not only remove that content once it’s up, but also proactively identify it before a user might even be able to see it,” Avra Siegel, Facebook’s policy programs manager, told The Hill.