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, Sept. 29 and turn in unused or expired medication to locations in their communities.
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.
"The nation's drug epidemic has moved from illegal drugs on our streets to prescriptions in our homes," Udall said. "Law enforcement and health organizations agree - prescription drug abuse is the most significant emerging drug threat in New Mexico. Addiction to painkillers, particularly in teens, often begins with taking unused medications found in the home medicine cabinet. That's why I strongly encourage people in all our communities to participate in this safe and effective day of action."
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, more than 3,159 pounds of prescription drugs were collected throughout New Mexico during last April's Take Back Day. In the four previous events nationwide, Take Back day partners took in over 1.5 million pounds-nearly 775 tons-of pills.
A recent 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.
"We need an all hands on deck approach," Udall added. "I am committed to doing everything I can to confront this problem at the federal level, and I applaud the work of local law enforcement, health care providers, parents and community leaders who are educating others about the dangers of prescription drugs. This growing trend is destroying the lives of our citizens and potential of our youth, and we must work together to reverse it."
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.
A recent Office of National Drug Control Policy report showed that from 1997 to 2007, average sales of opioid drugs per person increased from 74 milligrams to 369 milligrams - a 402 percent increase. Since medications like OxyContin and Vicodin are prescribed by doctors, many don't realize they can be as addictive and dangerous as illicit drugs. The report also pointed to proper medicine disposal as one of the key strategies in battling the national epidemic.
Udall is a member of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control and recently spoke out about the problem at a hearing on prescription drug abuse. Click here to watch the video.
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 a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance and is available in both English and Spanish.