Fighting Prescription Drug Abuse through Community Efforts

When most people picture the drug trade, images of border hopping smugglers and bags of white powder come to mind. Cocaine, methamphetamines, heroin, and a cocktail of other illegal substances dominate headlines. Keeping the American public safe from their corrupting influence is an important part of a DEA agent’s job.

However, controlling prescription drug abuse is just as much a part of that job, and sometimes even more important since prescription drugs are easier to get a hold of than street drugs in many cases. Each year, the market is flooded with enough prescription painkillers alone to keep every single American medicated for an entire month according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Not all of these pills get taken, and it is difficult to keep track of whether the intended recipient is actually the one using them. More importantly, once symptoms have been treated, prescription medication often sits unused and expires. Leftover medication can be extremely dangerous and is responsible for countless negative side effects.

According to NIDA, 54 percent of prescription drugs taken recreationally are obtained from a family member or friend, and these expired unused drugs are some of the most ripe for abuse. Drug Take Back Day is the DEA’s way of fighting back. Held last Saturday for the 10th time, Drug Take Back Day is a national event designed to inform the public about the dangers of expired medication and provide them with an outlet to safely dispose of their prescriptions.

Once symptoms have been alleved, many prescription drug users will simply flush or toss their leftover pills. This can have detrimental effects on the environment, not to mention the chemical impact on naturally collected drinking water. The event has the dual effect of keeping the environment safe and helping to keep prescription drugs out of the hands of those who would abuse them.

12 tons were collected at 169 collection agencies across the state of California, adding to the over 150 tons collected in previous events. The DEA considers the event a complete success, and similar efforts in the future stand to make a sizeable impact in the war on drugs.