In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) labeled the growing prescription drug abuse problem in the United States an epidemic. An epidemic, which is defined as a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time, is something that can cause mass destruction to the many of lives that it affects, and addictions to prescription drugs are no exception.
When speaking about prescription drug addiction, many people immediately think that it is the same kind of addiction as prescription painkiller addiction, which involves medications that are comprised of opioids. While addiction in itself is the same type of disease, the kinds of prescription drugs that are abused do not elicit the same kind of effects. It is without a doubt that some of the most commonly abused prescription drugs available are opioid-based painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet. However, many other prescription drugs, such as Ativan, Ambien, and Adderall, are also widely abused. And the effects that the abuse of these medications can produce are typically different, yet equally as damaging. For example, someone who is abusing a prescription opioid is likely to experience symptoms such as confusion, nausea, sweating, dry mouth, vital organ damage, and possibly even death. Someone abusing a prescription stimulant is likely to experience an increase in awareness, increased productivity, fast heart rate, and lightheadedness. Sedatives and/or benzodiazepines like Ambien and Ativan can cause excessive drowsiness, memory loss, and confusion.
Regardless of the particular prescription drug that an individual is abusing, there will always be many life-threatening risks associated with that abuse. This is one of the main reasons, along with the epidemic that is occurring involving these medications, that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has headed up the National Take-Back Initiative, which helps reduce the presence of unused prescription drugs in communities throughout the nation.
Wisconsin Shows Up for National Take-Back Day
The DEA schedules Take-Back Day on a national basis two times a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. This year, during Take-Back Day on April 30th, Wisconsin reached a record high in the amount of prescription drugs they collected. Residents of the state brought back more than 62,000 pounds of drugs in one day alone, which put Wisconsin in the third place spot for states with the biggest “take-backs.” Wisconsin followed behind California with more than 64,000 pounds and Texas with more than 79,000 pounds.
On the same day, law enforcement officials took back more than 893,000 pounds of unwanted medications, which was a record since the program began six years ago. Wisconsin, a state much smaller than California and Texas, proved to be a leader in taking a stand against the prescription drug epidemic that is plaguing communities across the United States.
The National Take-Back Initiative
Seeing what amazing, record-setting results that the National Take-Back Initiative has accomplished, law enforcement agents and the DEA continue to work together to make this event a major success. The primary goal of the initiative, which is stated on the DEA’s website, is to responsibly dispose of prescription drugs, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of medications.
This program partners the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) with the DEA, allowing them to properly collect and dispose of controlled substances from communities. While it can be as simple as dropping off old, unused medications, there are some guidelines that the DEA encourages the public to follow.
For example, it is required that the owner of the returned medication physically bring it to the drop-off location on the day of the event. This person is referred to as an “ultimate user.” However, some exceptions can be made, including sending one person on behalf of other members of the household to turn in unused medications.
In order to ensure that everyone in every community has the opportunity to safely dispose of their prescription medications, the DEA has allowed individuals to mail in their drop-offs. This is also done with the idea in mind that leaving individuals in the community without a safe method of disposing their medications can lead to further abuse, thus perpetuating the epidemic.
Additionally, outside of just providing communities with methods of getting rid of their prescription medications safely, the DEA works to utilize these events as a way of informing the public about the many dangers of prescription medication misuse, abuse, and addiction. This can include discussing symptoms, effects, and dangers of abusing prescription drugs, as well as providing literature to help educate those who are looking to obtain more information.
Thankfully, with the presence of the DEA and the National Take-Back Initiative, the prescription drug epidemic is being fought against, and more individuals, including those in Wisconsin, are being provided the opportunity to make a small stride that will eventually lead to a big difference.
At Burkwood Treatment Center, in Hudson, WI, near the Twin Cities of Minnesota, we offer the many services individuals who are addicted to substances like prescription drugs need in order to achieve a life of recovery. If you or a loved one is in need of professional help, please reach out to us right now. We look forward to speaking with you.