In most households across America, stuff filling the kitchen cabinet is free for the taking. This homey, “up-for-the-grabs” mentality is seeping into the fabric of our drug culture—especially in the arena of painkillers and other prescription drugs.
More than 70% of people experimenting with painkillers receive the drug from a friend or family member according to a recent government study.
Sharing Prescription Drugs: From the Medicine Cabinet
The federal study describes an ongoing survey of nearly 70,000 Americans over the age of 12 and provides us with a snapshot of prescription drug abuse in America.
The problem goes beyond painkillers. OxyContin and other powerful drugs doctors sign off on are distributed for free from friends and relatives to first time users seeking an easy high.
“This is one of the greatest drug threats we have ever faced,” Michele Leonhart, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration administrator, told reporters as the study was released late last month.
Recent estimates suggest that currently 7 million Americans abuse pharmaceutical drugs. Prescription drugs cause more fatal overdoses than cocaine and heroin, combined. Every year, 2.4 million Americans begin to abuse prescription drugs. And nearly 800,000 of the new users are adolescents.
The primary source for all of this? The home medicine cabinet.
“We need to recognize and be aware of what’s in our medicine cabinets,” National Drug Control Policy Director, Gil Kerlikowske told USA Today. Medicine cabinets are where most kids discover their first prescription high.
Obviously we’re not going to get rid of prescription drugs. So how do we tame this problem as it blankets society?
Education seems like the most logical solution. But the task is daunting.
A Deeper Issue: Prescription Drug Education
With a classroom size of more than 7 million prescription drug users, millions of health care professionals and thousands of pharmacies around the country, our government have quite the undertaking ahead of them.
Agencies like the CDC, DEA and the Food and Drug Administration have started the process, but a lot remains undone.
It begins with legal prescription drug users disposing of their extra pills properly. The Drug Enforcement Administration has organized a number of “Take Back” days when unused prescription drugs are collected by the DEA and disposed of properly.
The last three collections resulted in about a million pounds of prescription medications. But this is just the beginning.
Somehow these agencies need to figure out a way to keep up. New prescription drugs enter the market every day, and it seems no matter how strict the regulations or tight the restrictions, people find a way to get high off the stuff.
Here’s the Deal: The Numbers Are Staggering
Before I conclude this post I’d like to throw my two cents into cyber space; let me know what you think.
This whole issue of prescribed medication becoming more and more common placed and accepted in our nation derives back to an often overlooked reality: addictions have a beginning, but often, they don’t have an ending.
Think about the math. If addiction is a disease that sticks with you for the rest of your life, and 2.4 million people are testing the waters of addictive prescription drugs every year, the results become astronomical.
Even if only a fifth of these 2.4 million individuals develop an addiction to their newfound high, there could be as many as 16 million Americans abusing prescription drugs by 2030.
Cleaning Up Close to Home: San Francisco Drug Drop-Off
Many cities offer locations and even special Saturdays to drop-off old prescription medicine. Just recently, during the last week of April 2012, residents of San Francisco and surrounding communities visited designateddropped-off prescription drugs. As an alcoholic and drug rehabilitation center in northern California, we were excited to see the community working together to help get rid of these old drugs.