April 26, 2013

Udall: Safely Dispose of Rx Drugs this Saturday

WASHINGTON - As New Mexico continues to battle alarming prescription drug abuse rates, U.S. Senator Tom Udall is encouraging citizens to participate in the National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this Saturday, April 27 and turn in unused or expired medication to locations in their communities. Additional drop-off sites have been added since last year's Take-Back Day, including many in rural areas.

The event, sponsored by the New Mexico Department of Public Safety and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, will provide free, anonymous drop-off sites throughout the state for safe medication disposal. Residents can search online by county, city or zip code for the collection site nearest them by clicking here.

"Prescription drug abuse is still a major problem in our communities," Udall said. "Addiction to painkillers, particularly among teens, often begins with taking unused medications found at home. Removing expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs from your medicine cabinet can remove the threat of abuse, theft and overdose from your loved ones. That's why I strongly encourage people to participate in Take-Back Day - a free and anonymous opportunity to help protect our communities all across New Mexico."

A 2011 New Mexico Department of Health report showed the overdose rate from prescription drugs increased statewide by nearly 62 percent between 2001 and 2010. Even more troubling is that during the past five years, the overdose rate for prescription drugs such as oxycodone, morphine and methadone has exceeded the death rate from illicit drugs like heroin and cocaine. New Mexico has the sad distinction of having the highest overdose rate from prescription drugs, with 468 fatalities in 2010 alone.

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, 3,313 pounds of prescription drugs were collected throughout New Mexico during the last Take-Back Day on September 29, 2012. This was up from 3,159 pounds collected during the April 2012 event. In the five previous events, more than 2 million pounds-1,018 tons-of pills were collected from Take-Back Day partners nationwide.

"Year after year we see increased collection amounts through the successful efforts of Take-Back Day," Udall said. "I am encouraged by the positive response from the public, and also the work of our local law enforcement agencies, health care providers, parents and community leaders who educate the public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and fight to keep illicit drugs off the streets every day."

According to the 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), more than six million Americans abuse prescription drugs. That same study revealed more than 70 percent of people abusing prescription pain relievers got them through friends or relatives, a statistic that includes raiding the family medicine cabinet.

Research has shown that no community is exempted from the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse:

- Over 70 percent of teens first get prescription medications from friends and family, then become addicted to painkillers before moving on to heroin, which has a cheaper market value.
- Illicit drug use of active duty service members has increased from 5 to 12 percent and is primarily attributed to prescription drug abuse.
- The majority of people who die from prescription overdoses are men and women 44 to 64-years-old.

Udall is also encouraging parents and community leaders to visit the Police and Communities Together 360 website to access guides, training materials and interactive videos available to individuals and organizations at no charge. The website is funded through agrant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and is also available in Spanish.

Udall is a member of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.