Leftover pills are helping to fuel the opioid epidemic, experts say. According to the USA Today, many young adults suffering from opioid addiction began misusing the leftover prescription medications of their friends or family.
Drug addiction has several negative long term effects. Drugs not only create health problems, but they also contribute to the break down of personal relationships. According to a recent study, 10.6% of divorces can be attributed to drinking or drug abuse. One study suggests that opioids, which account for one in every five deaths among Americans between the ages of 25 and 34, could kill half a million more people over the next 10 years.
The opioid epidemic has been driven by multiple factors over the years including prescription pain medication, illicit heroin, and fentanyl.
Policies have been passed to tighten the reins on opioid prescriptions, increase prescription drug monitoring, and expand the use of the overdose rescue medication naloxone. But no one policy, experts say, have put a substantial dent in opioid-related deaths.
“Expanding access to naloxone is inexpensive and saves lives,” said Allison Pitt, lead author of the study. “That’s an attractive combination, but we should be realistic that it will only save a small percentage of opioid deaths.”
Recent data suggests that one way to reduce the risk of addiction in young adults is to properly dispose of leftover pills. Approximately 80% of those suffering from heroin addiction first began misusing prescription opioids and more than half received these opioids from a family member or friend.
“In times of crisis, we have shared responsibilities: in this case, the responsibility to destroy and discard these dangerous unused drugs,” said Mary Bono, the former Republican representative of California. “And we can all use help doing that as safely and simply as possible.”
Prescription opioids are more common than you’d think. There are 38,600 surgeons working in the U.S. and just recently oral surgeons came under fire for prescribing prescribing opioids to teenagers after the removal of their wisdom teeth.
One teenager interviewed by The Kansas City Star said her dentist had given her 10 days worth of Vicodin after her wisdom teeth were removed. Additional surgery was necessary and the teen’s prescription was refilled. After three weeks, the teen said she started to crave the drug and sought out leftover pills from friends.
“I started buying pills from other people,” said the anonymous teen. She was interviewed under the name Anna. “In 2010, it was very easy to get ahold of any opioid-based pain pill. They were expensive, but they were available.”
Approximately 15% of the world’s population is currently living with a disability, and many Americans are living with chronic pain. When these patients have opioid prescriptions unsecured in their medicine cabinets, it makes their leftover prescriptions susceptible to theft.
Bono says that take-back programs and community kiosks are a critical part of reducing this risk. But these programs aren’t always accessible. Due to this, the opioid epidemic is also becoming a law enforcement crisis as 84.7% of the arrests for drug law violation in the US are for possession of a controlled substance. Americans need an effective solution that lets them not only dispose of their leftover medications in their own home but completely destroy them.