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 26, and turn in unused or expired medication to locations in their communities.
The event, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), provides 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 or calling 1-800-882-9539 for more information. Sites are added daily.
"New Mexico has taken strong steps in fighting the prescription drug abuse epidemic, but we must keep it up," Udall said. "We know that addiction to painkillers, particularly among teens, often begins with taking unused medications found at home. But we also know that events like Take-Back Day are helping New Mexico families protect their loved ones from the threat of abuse. I encourage the public to take advantage of this free and anonymous opportunity, and help us keep unused or expired prescriptions out of our medicine cabinets, out of our water systems, and most importantly, off the streets and out of the hands of our children."
According to the DEA, more than 10,000 pounds of prescription drugs were collected throughout New Mexico on National Take-Back Day during the last two years alone. Nationwide, state, local, and tribal law-enforcement and community partners have removed over 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of medication from circulation in the last seven events combined.
For years, New Mexico has had one of the highest drug overdose rates in the nation, and substance abuse is still among the top five leading causes of death statewide. Drug overdoses in New Mexico decreased slightly in 2012, but still average about 500 a year, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. A report by the Department in 2011 showed that during the previous five years, the overdose rate for prescription drugs, such as oxycodone, morphine and methadone, exceeded the death rate from drugs like heroin and cocaine.
While the state faces alarming rates of addiction, New Mexico's efforts to fight prescription drug abuse have been cited as examples for other states with similar challenges. In a policy report card issued by the Trust for America's Health, New Mexico scored 10 out of 10 - one of only two states nationwide to receive the distinction - with promising strategies to help curb abuse. Those strategies included enhancing prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) and using the drug Narcan/naloxone to help treat patients addicted to opioids - two major components of a bill Udall has introduced at the federal level to ensure patients receive prescriptions safely and legally.
Udall's Increasing the Safety of Prescription Drug Use Act would also help make it easier for residents to dispose of prescription drugs in their communities as often and as safely as possible, especially in rural areas.
As a member of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Udall continues to work with medical professionals, community organizations and local enforcement to combat prescription drug abuse in New Mexico and across the nation. He recently urged Attorney General Eric Holder to focus federal resources and attention on fighting addiction to prescription opioids and heroin, and he has traveled around the state holding discussions with community leaders on how to address the problem. In Valencia County, he met with First Choice Community Health clinic staff to discuss their innovative approaches. He later met with counselors, administrators and students at Ruidoso High School to discuss the impact of prescription drug abuse on teens.
"We need all hands on deck when it comes to beating back prescription drug abuse, and I am thankful to all our partners on the ground who are making strides," Udall added. "I will continue doing all I can at the federal level, including finding more ways to support the work of advocates and law enforcement in our communities, who know the problem best and who work hard to keep drugs off our streets every day."