It takes a community to make a dent in the opioid crisis — and Google is leading the corporate way with a new program to help people locate drug disposal locations on Google maps. 

The program launches today and is aimed at that core majority of people who begin or maintain their opioid addiction through the misuse of prescription drugs coming directly from friends or family members.They’ve partnered with DEA, HHS, CVS, Walgreens, and state governments to make the effort a success.

Working with folks who are legitimately prescribed pain medicine, rather than punishing them or slashing prescriptions, is necessary if we are not to create a new class of victims. Recent reports reveal that some chronic pain patients aren’t able to get the meds they need due to a deep decline in prescription rates by physicians. While it's understandable and even admirable that doctors are trying to reverse the practice of over-prescribing, which helped fuel the opioid crisis, this reluctance to provide pain relief is now creating its own problems, even leading some to consider suicide.

While people in need of pain relief should be able to get these medications, it’s vital to get those addictive substances stored safety or out of the house if they aren’t being used anymore, so they cannot be taken by others or abused.

However, chronic pain victims aren’t the ones you need to worry about. The Google initiative tackles the problem in a way that respects those individuals, while also attempting to protect those vulnerable to substance-use disorders.

"By bringing opioid disposal site information to Google Maps, Americans are only a search away from helping to address the opioid crisis,” said Ed Simcox, HHS Chief Technology officer. “This type of consumer empowerment–providing easily accessible data–is the kind of innovation needed to improve healthcare.”  

One of the most common ways to search a location using Google is by adding “near me” to the query and Google’s suggestion features usually auto-populates the term as well. Withtoday’s announcement, “drug drop off near me” or “medication disposal near me” will generate permanent disposal locations like pharmacies, hospitals, and government buildings for people to find.

Google is just following the lead of the people. They report an all-time high of search queries for“medication disposal near me,” so they are responding to a legitimate demand.  Over 3,500 locations and 7 states nationwide begin the pilot program for Google Maps drug drop-off today — and the company hopes to expand to all 50 states if the effort is successful.