By Sherrod Brown
Together, we can save lives if we properly dispose of expired or unused prescription drugs. Too many addicts and curious teens can get prescription drugs from the family medicine cabinet or from friends who no longer use the medication they were prescribed.
In recent years, more Ohioans have died from accidental prescription drug overdoses than auto accidents. As the national death toll from prescription drug overdoses doubled, the rate of overdoses tripled in Ohio. Ohio’s death rate due to unintentional drug poisoning increased more than 350 percent from 1999 to 2008. Oxycodone and other opioids caused more overdoses in Ohio in 2008 than heroin and cocaine combined.
So, it’s imperative that we do a better job of getting rid of powerful prescription narcotics. Last week, I visited a site in Zanesville, Ohio participating in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Held on September 29th, this day allowed Ohioans to safely disposing of unused prescription drugs.
It’s especially important to dispose of prescription pain medications, such as Oxycodone, morphine, and methadone – which are largely responsible for increasing numbers of overdoses and deaths in Ohio.
That’s why I’ve cosponsored legislation to ensure safe prescription drug disposal. The Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act that I introduced a few years ago would reduce the likelihood of prescription pills ending up in the wrong hands or in the environment.
Passed in 2010, this bill is working to make it easier to dispose of unused medication by allowing consumers and patients to give controlled substances to designated officials – such as law enforcement or pharmacists – for safe disposal. It also allows caregivers and long-term care facilities to deliver unused drugs for safe disposal by expanding existing drug take-back programs.
To learn more, please visit www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/ or call 1-800-882-9539.
In addition to take-back efforts, there are several ways we can combat this costly and deadly problem:
First, I’ve proposed that the State of Ohio fully implement a Medicaid “Lock-In” program, which would crack down on the illegal use of Medicaid cards to obtain and fill prescriptions for addictive pain medications. This program would prevent prescription drug abusers from acquiring excessive prescription drugs – which they may abuse or illegally re-sell – by barring them from visiting multiple doctors and pharmacies.
Next, we can also continue Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and crack down on illegal transfers from other states. So-called ‘pill mills’ – where prescription drugs are dispensed for non-medical reasons – should be shut down. That’s why I am urging the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency to redouble its efforts to shutter ‘pill mills’ and increase federal enforcement. It is imperative that we ease the outsized burden on state and local budgets to solve this national problem.
After I reached out to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to urge him to establish Ohio-based tactical diversion squads, we’ve seen two new squads sent to Ohio that are helping the state crack down on ‘pill mills.’ Several Ohio counties have already been designated as the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy.
We need to know how drugs are obtained illegally and work comprehensively to cut off the source. We cannot afford to let improper disposal, pharmacy-shopping, doctor-hopping, or thefts threaten the safety of Ohio families.
Together, we can move forward and create safer communities by addressing the concerns of Ohioans who are eager to end prescription drug abuse – and save lives.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.