(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