The overprescribing of opioid painkillers in the United States has created an epidemic that many fear will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reverse. At the end of the day, all that we as nation can hope for is mitigating the rampant opioid abuse and overdose rates, a class of drugs both illegal and legal that are responsible for over 70 deaths every day. While it has become more difficult to acquire large quantities of such drugs, sometimes from multiple doctors, prescription opioids are still doled out at alarming rates.
Efforts to combat the epidemic with effective measures have led to the U. S. House of Representative adopting the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) last Friday. Yesterday, July 13, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 90 to 2 to approve the bill; a move which, if all goes well, will hopefully bring about much needed resources for tackling the multifaceted opioid crisis in America. The legislation covers a number of different areas, including:
- Expanding access to addiction treatment services.
- Strengthening prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).
- Increasing the availability of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone.
- Enlarging the number of prescription drugs safe disposal sites.
Opioids In The Wrong Hands
Historically, when people were written a prescription for particular drugs, the medications were taken until no longer needed. For instance, if you sustained an injury and a doctor prescribed an opioid, then the pills would be taken until the pain dissipated. More often than not, there would be leftover tablets that would reside in one’s medicine chest collecting dust. Such medications were not given another thought and people would continue living their lives. But those were in the times before the epidemic we face today.
Today, leftover prescription opioids pose a serious risk to society, as they often end up in the hands of others—sometimes for an injury—sometimes to be abused. Unwanted or unused pain medication can be found in great numbers in medicine cabinets across the country, which some believe to be the result of doctors writing prescriptions for too much of an opioid painkiller. Please keep in mind that the population of the United States is only 5 percent of the world’s population, yet we are prescribed and use the vast majority of the planet’s opioid medication supply. Leftover medication is inevitable.
With over 2 million Americans abusing prescription opioids, there is a desperate need to make sure that unwanted medication is disposed of safely—lest the drugs end up in the hands of children or are abused, potentially resulting in an overdose. New research suggest that more than 50 percent of patients’ prescribed opioids have unused medication, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Despite the fact that most adults are privy to the knowledge that prescription opioids are both addictive and deadly, 20 percent of the research survey participants reported sharing their medication with either friends or family. Perhaps the most troubling finding of the survey was that 50 percent of patients failed to receive information on safe storage or proper disposal of unused/unwanted medication.
Opioid Take-Back Efforts
Federal, state and local governments have made an effort to offer patients with leftover medication access to safe disposal sites for a number of years now. National Prescription Drug Take-back Days result in the collection of millions and millions of pill tablets that would have otherwise sat in medicine cabinets, been flushed down the toilet and/or diverted. Additionally, many pharmacies will take-back your unwanted prescription drugs year round.
Nevertheless, whether out of laziness or failing to grasp the severity of the crisis, a significant number of prescription narcotics never make it to safe disposal sites. Simply flushing your pills down the toilet is not a safe form of disposal, evident by the fact that many municipal drinking water supplies contain remnants of prescription drugs.
There is now a way to safely dispose of unwanted medication at home. A safe and environmentally responsible method of disposing of prescription meds may be made available to patients across the country in the near future. The Deterra Drug Deactivation System, or Deterra System, is “a simple 3-step process, a user can deactivate drugs, thereby preventing drug misuse and protecting the environment,” according to the product manufacturers website. The system is currently being utilized by:
- Law Enforcement
- Healthcare Providers
- State Agencies
Remember, if you or a loved one are seeking an opiate or heroin rehab and addiction help, please reach out to us today.