A new government survey reveals that over 70 percent of people who abuse prescription painkillers get their pills from a friend or relative – usually for free and with permission. The findings are based on data collected from nearly 70,000 Americans over the age of 12 as part of an annual National Survey of Drug Use and Health.
“This is one of the greatest drug threats we have ever faced,” said Michele Leonhart, head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Approximately seven million people in the U.S. abuse pharmaceutical drugs, with prescription drugs accounting for over three quarters of all drug-related overdose deaths – more than cocaine and heroin combined — according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Three of every four overdose deaths involve opioid painkillers such as oxycodone.
The government study revealed that 25 percent of people who chronically abuse painkillers obtain their drugs from doctors. Fifty-five percent get them from family or friends for free, 11% buy them from friends and family and 5% take them without asking.
With the survey indicating that home medicine cabinets are the most likely place for drug abusers get their pills, the DEA is not only cracking down on pharmacies and distributors, but asking the public to properly dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired drugs before they end up in the wrong hands. Unused drugs that are disposed of improperly can also wind up in local water supply.
To that end, the DEA has launched a National Prescription Take-Back Initiative Day to be held this Saturday, April 28, around the nation.
The DEA Take-Back Initiative is the 4th time the DEA has held the event. All three of the preceding take-back days were largely successful, with the public safely disposing of nearly 500 tons of medications.
“The amount of prescription drugs turned in by the American public during the past three Take-Back Day events speaks volumes about the need to develop a convenient way to rid homes of unwanted or expired prescription drugs,” Leonhart said.
To locate a drug collection site near you, visit the DEA’s website and enter your zip code.