This post appears couresty of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Tomorrow marks the DEA’s fifth Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. In conjunction with United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, DEA personnel have set up hundreds of collection sites where citizens can turn in their unneeded prescription medications – at no cost, and with no questions asked.
Already, this program has allowed us to collect over 1.5 million pounds of prescription drugs.
In recent years, we’ve seen that prescription drug abuse constitutes one of the greatest public safety and public health epidemics of our time, inflicting devastating, long-term, effects on individuals – and destroying families, neighborhoods, and entire communities – all across the country. Studies have shown that more than 52 million Americans have abused prescription drugs at least once during their lifetimes; that every day 7,000 people begin misusing prescription drugs for the first time; and that, in 2008 alone, prescription drug abuse claimed over 20,000 lives nationwide.
As a former judge, United States Attorney, and Deputy Attorney General, I’ve seen the terrible cost of prescription drug abuse. Today, as Attorney General, I’m committed to ensuring that addressing its causes and consequences is – and will remain – among the Justice Department’s top priorities. And I’m proud to report that – over the last three and a half years – this commitment had led us to take bold, coordinated action to protect the American people.
In concert with a range of key federal, state, local, and tribal authorities and partner organizations, the department has begun working to implement effective education, treatment, enforcement, and policy solutions. Through initiatives like our Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs – and thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the DEA's Tactical Diversion Squads – we’re gaining a better understanding of this problem and we’re moving more swiftly – and more efficiently – than ever before to intervene in the lives of those who are at risk.
Our efforts have been informed, augmented, and strengthened by the work of leading researchers and law enforcement officials who serve on the front lines of this fight – and who have repeatedly shown that, when it comes to preventing, reducing, and combating prescription drug abuse, we stand to benefit from a variety of perspectives and approaches.
Even more importantly, they’ve demonstrated that every individual has an essential role to play in this work. Recent surveys indicate that more than half of those who admit to abusing prescription painkillers said that they got drugs "from a friend or relative for free"– not from their own doctor. This illustrates the critical importance of getting old, unused, or expired drugs out of household medicine cabinets. And it’s why the DEA has begun the Take-Back campaign.
During the DEA’s last take-back day in April, more than 4,200 state and local law enforcement partners collected a record-breaking 552,161 pounds of prescription drugs at over 5,600 sites operated in all 50 states and U.S. territories.
With the help of citizens across the country, we are poised to build on these extraordinary results. By cleaning out their medicine cabinets, the American people can help to clean up their communities. We can stand together against crime. And we can ensure that all of our neighbors – especially our young people – have the opportunity to live in drug-free communities and to lead safe, healthy lives.