Saturday is national “Take Back Day,” when countless cities across America will host events to properly dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs in an ongoing effort to curb prescription drug abuse.
The 36 scheduled “Take Back” locations Saturday in Montana, from Anaconda to Wolf Creek, underscore the significant progress the state has made in fighting prescription drug abuse since Attorney General Steve Bullock launched Operation Medicine Cabinet Montana. Borne out of two similar one-day events, where nearly 2,500 pounds of prescription drugs was collected, the program has blossomed to include permanent drop boxes in 13 counties statewide, with more coming online soon. More than 2 tons of expired or unwanted prescription drugs have been collected since Bullock launched the program in June of 2011.
“Prescription drugs are important medications. Used correctly, they can alleviate a tremendous amount of suffering. But when they are misused, they can also create a tremendous amount of pain and destroy lives,” Bullock said. “Let’s get the message out: prescription drugs should be saving lives – not ending them.”
Prescription drug abuse is a serious public safety concern – more than even methamphetamine. The Montana Division of Criminal Investigation in 2009 reported that 42 percent o the drug cases it handled involved prescription drug abuse. On average, meth, heroin and cocaine contribute to the deaths of 20 Montanans each year. Prescription drug abuse, however, is a contributing factor in the deaths of more than 300 Montanans every year. More than 63 percent of teens surveyed say prescription drugs are easy to obtain from their parents’ medicine cabinets, and one in five teens reports having abused prescription drugs.
“Many of us have no idea how many partially used prescription pain relievers and other medications we have sitting around in a bathroom cupboard,” Bullock said. “But that is the very first place an addict will look.”
Operation Medicine Cabinet provides grants to local law enforcement agencies to establish permanent drop boxes at secure locations, such as police or sheriff’s offices, where expired prescription drugs can be deposited and safely disposed of. Bullock also spearheaded the implementation of a statewide prescription drug registry, administered by the Montana Board of Pharmacy, where doctors and pharmacists can track prescriptions, identify drug seekers and provide better care for their patients.
“Prescription drug abuse has crept up on all of us,” Bullock said. “As Montana’s Attorney General and a father of three young children, I’m working to aim a spotlight on prescription drug abuse, to make it harder for people to buy these drugs on the street and easier for doctors to spot addicts angling for their next high.”
“The immediate success of the prescription drug drop box program shows Montanans are worried about this invisible epidemic,” he added. “Operation Medicine Cabinet and events like Saturday’s ‘Take Back Day’ are great ways to keep these potentially dangerous drugs off the streets and out of the wrong hands.”
To find a “Take Back Day” location near you, go to www.dea.gov and click on the “Got Drugs?” icon at the top of the home page. All types of prescription drugs may be dropped off, except chemotherapy medication; pressurized or aerosol cans; and needles or other sharps. The public is also encouraged to remove labels or black out any personal information.
Learn more at www.invisibleepidemic.com.