A new Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) rule aims to combat a growing epidemic of prescription drug addiction and abuse by authorizing pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and others to serve as drop-off sites for unused prescription medications.
Attorney General Eric Holder said that the new regulation will help save lives and protect families from the dangers of prescription drug misuse.
In 2011, unintentional prescription drug overdoses accounted for more than half of the 41,300 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Prescription opioids, which are increasingly prescribed for pain relief, are particularly addictive and likely to be abused. Opioid pain killer overdose caused about 17,000 of the prescription drug deaths in 2011.
Statistics show that young people are especially susceptible to the dangers of prescription drug abuse. According to Mr. Holder, nearly four in 10 teens who have misused or abused prescription drugs have obtained them from their parents’ medicine cabinet.
“These shocking statistics illustrate that prescription drug addiction and abuse represent nothing less than a public health crisis,” Mr. Holder said in an announcement of the new regulation. “Every day, this crisis touches – and devastates – the lives of Americans from every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life.”
The new policy builds on drug take-back programs already introduced by the DEA. A recent take-back event coordinated by the DEA last April resulted in the return of 390 tons of prescription drugs at nearly 6,100 sites across the U.S. In the last four years alone, the DEA and other partnering organizations have taken in more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription pills.
In addition to regular take-back events (the next scheduled DEA take-back event is scheduled for Sept. 27), the new regulation will make it easier for prescription drug users to return unused drugs quicker and more frequently. The new policy will allow drug users everywhere to mail their unused drugs to authorized collectors.
According to federal data, roughly 6.5 million people ages 12 and older use prescription drugs for unauthorized, nonmedical purposes. In 2013, nearly 110 Americans died every day from prescription drug overdoses. As prescription pain relievers become more and more potent, the threat of prescription drug abuse continues to rise.