Google has recently announced that they plan to take action to help combat addiction, although many critics would call the approach a “soft” one rather than a hardline approach.
Partnering with the Drug Enforcement Administration, Google will offer a tool that helps visitors find a safe drug take-back program which will allow them to dispose of any unused opioids, which the previous Drug Czar, Michael Botticelli, said was one necessary action to prevent teens from ever trying opiates. (Many teens surveyed said that their first experience with opioids came from a family member’s drug cabinet when they were experimenting with drugs.)
Using Google’s Drug Takeback Tool
The drug takeback tool helps users find places to dispose of almost any prescription drug, which means that there is an environmentally-harmless way to dispose of opioids, sedatives, etc. as well as non-abused drugs such as expired antibiotics.
Users plug in their address and zip code and locations will be presented.
Initially, this tool is a place for safe disposal for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which lands on April 28th this year. Many locations take drugs year-round, and many states and cities hold their local takeback programs, but Google wants to make this a permanent tool for users.
Google is partnering with the DEA and state governments to add more permanent locations in the app.
Other Ways Google is Helping Battle Addiction
There are additional tools that Google is working on and currently implementing but expect to see more as the company comes under more scrutiny for inadvertently providing access to drugs via their search results online.
Google says they are highlighting various ways to get help for addiction, such as SAMHSA, and making sure that information lands at the top of its search results. Included in this campaign are the Drug-Free Kids Parents Helpline (1-855-378-4373) and details of opioid addiction symptoms and treatment. Google has also pledged to donate $750,000 to expand the Parents Helpline.
It may be that Google is hoping to appease regulators with their actions. Recently, Scott Gottlieb of the FDA called on Google and other search and media giants to help combat the influx of drugs that are readily advertised online. While Google has yet to respond to the request outright, it’s clear these efforts are a part of trying to clean house. After all, Google is the top search engine in the world and delivers millions to billions of search results every day. Making it a little easier for people who are searching for help to get it can only be a good thing.
Of course, regulators also want it to be harder for people to find illicit drugs via Google, as well. In fact, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has asked Google to stop allowing organic, i.e., free instead of paid, search results to be indexed if they advertise any illegal ways to acquire any prescription drugs of abuse. It remains to be seen if Google will take any actions banning web pages that are trying to make illegal sales.