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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, Americans are abusing prescription drugs at alarming rates and a major source for this abuse is the unused or expired drugs in our medicine cabinets, nursing homes, and hospitals. Prescription drugs are now surpassing most illegal drugs as the drug of choice for abusers across America.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that ``prescription drugs account for the second most commonly abused category of drugs, behind marijuana, and ahead of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and other drugs.''
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioid painkillers, such as Oxycontin and Percocet and morphine. Accidental deaths caused by the abuse of such opioid painkillers now outnumber deaths caused by the use of cocaine and heroin.
Today, an estimated seven million Americans abuse prescription drugs. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that the non-medical use of prescription drugs increased by 12 percent in 2009. Pain killers and other highly addictive prescription drugs have become increasingly popular with America's teenagers.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that 20 percent of teens have admitted to taking prescription drugs without a prescription. Unfortunately, many teens believe these drugs, because they are available by prescription, are less dangerous than illegal drugs. Sadly, this can often be a deadly misconception.
And a major source of prescription drugs is leftover, unused and expired drugs in our own homes and healthcare facilities. The Justice Department reports that prescription drug abuse is most prevalent among 18- to 25-year-olds, and most of these drugs are acquired for free from family and friends.
The solution is safe and accessible drug disposal. Law enforcement agencies and pharmacies across the country are now sponsoring drug disposal or ``take-back'' programs to collect unused and expired prescription drugs.
But these programs are at the mercy of a loophole in federal law that prevents individuals from legally disposing of controlled prescription drugs. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 or ``CSA'' utilizes a registration system for the distribution of controlled substances.
Individuals are exempted from the registration requirement in order to receive a prescription from their doctor to fill at their local pharmacy. But the CSA does not authorize individuals to dispose of their unused or expired drugs to a ``take-back'' program.
H.R. 5809, the Safe Drug Disposal Act, introduced by Mr. INSLEE, Mr. STUPAK, and myself, corrects this anomaly in the law. Once this bill is enacted, patients and long-term care facilities will be able to legally dispose of their controlled prescription drugs.
H.R. 5809 establishes a public education campaign within the Office of National Drug Control Policy to increase awareness of the availability of drug take-back programs in their communities. The bill also directs the General Accountability Office to study the availability and effectiveness of drug disposal programs.
Finally, the bill directs the Environmental Protection Agency to study the environmental impacts of the disposal of prescription drugs.
It is imperative that Congress provide for the safe disposal of these highly-addictive and dangerous drugs. Without this change to our federal drug laws, prescription pain killers and sedatives will linger in medicine cabinets across the country, easily accessible to teenagers wishing to experiment or adults who become dependent.
I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
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