NEW YORK (AP / WCBS 880) — The Drug Enforcement Administration is encouraging people to take a few minutes on Saturday to clean out their medicine cabinets. The national prescription drug “Take-Back” campaign will offer more than 4,000 sites around the nation where the public can drop off expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs.
LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports
There are sites in all five boroughs of New York City, plus the northern suburbs, New Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut.
CLICK HERE to find a site near you.
“We have an epidemic,” says acting Drug Enforcement Administration administrator Michele Leonhart, whose agency is working with thousands of state and local agencies and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America on Saturday’s campaign.
“Our research shows that the No. 1 source of medicines that kids abuse is their own home medicine cabinet or a family member or friend’s home,” says Steve Pasierb, the partnership’s president.
Unintentional overdose deaths involving prescription narcotics increased 175 percent in a six-year span to 11,001 in 2006, according to data collected by the federal government.
In 2009, there were 7 million Americans aged 12 years and older who abused prescription drugs for non-medical purposes within the previous month, up from 6.2 million in 2008.
At the DEA, “we’re concerned that first-time drug users are just as likely to use pharmaceutical drugs as they are marijuana; every day on average 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time,” Leonhart said in an interview. “We are seeing a trend where 56 percent of teens think prescription drugs are easier to get, two of five teens believe prescription drugs are much safer than other drugs and three in 10 teens believe prescription drugs are not addictive.”
Over the past two years, the DEA has nearly doubled the number of agents assigned to investigate the diversion of prescription drugs into illegal channels and is strengthening its regulatory oversight on DEA-registered manufacturers, distributors and retailers who handle these substances.
The DEA also is employing the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act that makes it harder for cyber-criminals to illegally sell prescription drugs via the Internet.
The Take-Back event also is a way to address environmental problems that arise when unwanted prescription drugs are flushed down the toilet or dumped at a landfill. Residue from the drugs can end up at wastewater treatment plants that cannot handle the chemicals. Or the chemicals can leach out into groundwater. The DEA incinerates the unwanted prescription drugs it collects.
It is illegal to turn over controlled substances to anyone other than law enforcement officers. But legislation sponsored by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Amy Klobochar, D-Minn., would allow state and private entities to institute responsible drug take-back programs. A measure sponsored by Rep. Jay Enslee, D-Wash., would allow local communities to create safe drug disposal programs.
“As parents and grandparents, we do everything we need to do to childproof; now we need teen-proof by getting medicine out of the medicine cabinet,” said Leonhart.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)