Feb. 22 (UPI) -- In an effort to fight the growing opioid epidemic, Google Maps has announced it has launched a pilot program to help people easily find prescription drug drop-off sites.
The company said by just typing into Google Maps searches such as "drug drop off near me" or "medication disposal near me" users can find drop-off sites that include hospitals, pharmacies and government buildings, according to a company statement released Thursday.
"Today, we're making it easier for Americans to quickly find disposal locations on Google Maps and Search all year round," Dane Glasglow, vice president of product at Google Maps, said in a news release. "A search for queries like 'drug drop off near me' or 'medication disposal near me' will display permanent disposal locations at your local pharmacy, hospital or government building so you can quickly and safely discard your unneeded medication."
Google Maps displays 3,500 prescription drug drop-off locations in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the company said.
Google has partnered with Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CVS, Walgreens, and other organizations, and says it will expand the program in the coming months.
The program grew from a partnership last year when Google worked with the DEA to develop a Google Maps prescription drug disposal site map for National Prescription Take Back Day. With the help of the locator, local partners in that effort netted 1.85 million pounds of unused prescription medication.
This program comes as reports show that illicit opioid deaths are expected to reach 147 percent by 2025.
"Fifty-three percent of prescription drug abuse starts with drugs obtained from family or friends, so we're working alongside government agencies and nonprofit organizations to help people safely remove excess or unused opioids from their medicine cabinets," Glasglow said.