Fight Prescription Drug abuse – join Drug Take Back Saturday, April 30th

April 29, 2011

(editor’s note: Michele Leonhart is the Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Administration.  She is a good friend and supporter of Oregon Partnership. Here is her column on Saturday’s Drug Take Back that will be available from 10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

All of us who are passionate about reducing drug abuse cannot ignore the growing dangers of prescription drug abuse, particularly among teens and young adults.  By preventing drug abuse where it starts, we can make a tremendous difference in the life of our nation: one community, one family and one child at a time.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org has highlighted this disturbing trend with a staggering statistic from the 2010 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey (PATS): One out of four teens has admitted to taking a prescription drug not prescribed to them.  This confirms what we see in other studies and in our drug enforcement work at DEA:

  • More prescriptions are being written than ever before: There has been an increase of almost 50 percent in retail pharmacy prescriptions for opioids (the most frequently abused prescription drug class) in the past decade–more than a quarter billion in 2009;
  • More people are dying from prescription drugs: There has been nearly a 300 percent increase in deaths from prescription opioids in less than a decade;
  • There has been a spike in teen abuse of prescription drugs: More teenagers are abusing prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined;

We also know where abusers are getting prescription drugs. It’s often from friends and family, particularly home medicine cabinets that provide easy access, which leads to accidents and the illegal sale of these drugs:

  • A recent survey found that over 70 percent of those who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives;
  • PATS shows nearly half of teens believe it is easy to get prescription drugs from their family’s medicine cabinet;

We can make a difference in stopping prescription drug abuse.  It will not be easy.  It will not be quick.  But together, we can change access, attitudes and keep these drugs out of harm’s way.

One important step we can take right now is to make sure we safely and securely dispose of unused, unneeded and expired medications.  Many of you joined DEA on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day last September to do just that.  With your help, we collected over 121 tons of prescription drugs. This Saturday, April 30, we will be holding another Take-Back Day at thousands of locations across the nation.  We already have more collection sites registered than last year. Please visit www.DEA.gov to find the location nearest you.

Soon, DEA will develop regulations to implement the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 passed last fall by Congress and signed by the President.  This will provide for a permanent solution for the safe disposal of controlled substance prescription drugs.  It will not, however, end our need to be vigilant in this fight.

I am certain that the more we can do to stop the abuse of prescription drugs, the more effective we will be in reducing the death, destruction and despair that accompanies all drug abuse.  Thank you for your partnership with DEA.

-Michele Leonhart DEA Administrator


Losing A Fellow Soldier

April 28, 2011

(Editor’s note: Lt. Tim Hasty is a former Military Helpline specialist who is now US Army Ranger active duty)

We lost one of our own to himself. I didn’t know him, but that didn’t matter. I still felt the loss. Many of us have. But the odd thing, everyone deals with it in their own way. Some don’t talk about it, others say it’s tragic, some make jokes, and others just ponder why. Given the pain and suffering we go through every day, I don’t believe anyone thinks he was weak.

The circumstances surrounding it are well known. Tragic as they are, it’s hard for everyone to stop with what they are doing. The days are so long and difficult here, everyone fights their own personal struggle and to hear something like this, you feel badly, but you have to keep working to keep yourself strong. We check each other. Ask about home, wives, girlfriends, families. We go out together after our long weeks in the field and laugh about the misery we were in, knowing it will only intensify as the weeks go on. We lie in the cold at night and shiver together. It’s only training, so everyone knows that it will eventually end. And it makes it easier, but it’s not in that same respect. The laws of relativity apply. And it’s why I feel we lost one. The moment of pure pain was greater then the long term happiness.

With everything I have been taught and experienced, it was disheartening to hear the news because I knew the sad truth: It’s an up-hill battle. The mental anguish and physical stress take their toll on everyone. We all struggle in our own right, and we all are so tough. We hide the bitter pain. We may open up about the stress, but not one of us wants to appear weak. And when that happens, all is lost in the mind of the fallen.

I sit here now, having been on both sides of the fence, staring into the eyes of those around me, knowing the sad truth: we are all such pure warriors,  we will fight to the bitter end and that surrender is not a word in our vocabulary – but the act that was done is surrender.

It makes me sad to know that this has happened. I know there was nothing I could have done, but seeing the reality of it, I know I must start watching those around me just a little bit closer.

One day, that surrender may come to one I know.

– Tim


From The Military Helpline Comes Hope

April 1, 2011


It was a relaxed Friday afternoon. The week was winding down and I was getting excited for the weekend. Suddenly, my phone rang and it was a Military Helpline call.

“Thank you for calling the Lifeline, my name is Josh.” I said. The person on the other end responded quietly and unhurried: “I want to kill myself”.

The caller was an older gentleman dealing with a strong desire to end his life. To connect with him, I listened to his reasons for dying that included severe depression and unreconciled grief. The caller had no money due to being unemployed for over a year and was constantly criticized for it by his wife. I reflected back to the caller his feelings of worthlessness, frustration, and despair.

The caller shared how his father told him to never quit, but he did not see a way out other than suicide. So I asked him if he had a plan to kill himself. The caller did have a plan and that was to shoot himself. I asked if he had access to a firearm. He said that he was outdoors with a firearm but would not disclose his location.

From being in the service, I know how veterans like their firearms. So I asked the caller what kind of firearm he had, and he responded that it was a .45. After having a cheery talk about guns, I asked the caller to unload his .45 because I was concerned for his safety. He agreed and I could hear the .45 being cleared over the phone, a sound unmistakable after spending 6 years in the infantry.

I congratulated the caller for unloading his weapon and making the first step to staying safe. I told him the next step would be contacting a counselor. The caller agreed to leave the weapon unloaded and the ammunition in a different location and to contact the local counseling agency I had referred. The caller expressed his gratitude to me for listening to his pain and helping him make the decision to continue living another day.

This is just one story of many of the high risk calls we receive on the Military Helpline and National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The staff and volunteers of Oregon Partnership are real life superheroes who save lives every day.

– Josh