- Google is working to support public health by adding detailed opioid disposal site data to its maps and search results, according to a blog post from the tech company.
Recognizing that the majority of opioid abuse situations are fueled by inappropriate access to prescription drugs in the home, Google is working to ensure that patients with valid pain prescriptions can dispose of their unneeded medications in a safe and secure manner.
A 2017 study published in Pediatrics found that opioids are stored safety in only 11.7 percent of households with older children, who may be more likely to experiment with illicit substances.
And according to the American Medical Association, more than 70 percent of people using opioids for non-medical reasons get access to the drugs from family and friends.
The pilot feature builds on Google’s previous efforts to help federal agencies and community groups cope with the ongoing public health crisis. In 2018, Google partnered with the DEA to develop a Google Maps API tool to share information about temporary disposal sites at the local level.
The twice-yearly disposal program collected 1.85 million pounds of unused drugs in 2018.
Searches for medication disposal information hit an all-time high in January, said Dane Glasglow, VP of Product for Google Maps, tracking with sustained interest in treating and preventing opioid addiction.
“Today, we’re making it easier for Americans to quickly find disposal locations on Google Maps and Search all year round. 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,” wrote Glasglow.
Google is also working with state governments and private companies, such as CVS Health and Walgreens, to enhance the offering. Partners on the project have contributed local drop-off site data to enrich the function.
“For this pilot, we also looked to public health authorities—like HHS—for ideas on how technology can help communities respond to the opioid crisis,” added Glasglow. “In fact, combining disposal location data from different sources was inspired by a winning entry at the HHS’s Opioid Code-A-Thon held a year ago.”
The search giant is also investing in physical efforts to stem the epidemic. Verily, a life sciences company owned by Google’s umbrella entity Alphabet, is collaborating with health systems in Ohio to develop a real-world campus for substance abuse treatment.
The project, announced earlier in February, will be a data-driven, not-for-profit treatment center deeply rooted in the local community.
“Americans under 50 years old are more likely to die from an unintended overdose than any other cause, and two-thirds of those deaths involve an opioid. In 2017, 115 people died each day from opioid overdoses in the United States and that number continues to rise,” said Danielle Schlosser, Senior Clinical Scientist, Behavioral Health at Verily.
“We are in the midst of a public health emergency. At Verily, we are focused on making health information useful so people can live healthier lives, and in the face of one of the greatest public health crises the US has seen, we feel compelled to act.”
The medication disposal features integrated into Google Maps and search products will support the same overall mission to reduce opportunities for dependence and mitigate the effects of opioid addiction.
“We’ll be working to expand coverage and add more locations in the coming months,” Glasglow concluded. “To learn more about how your state or business can bring more disposal locations to Google Maps and Search, contact [email protected] today.”