With initiatives driving the proper disposal of unused prescription drugs, many counties are inundated with a variety of unwanted medication. For instance, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office was swamped with almost eleven tons of unwanted prescriptions to dispose of in 2015.
Hennepin County began their prescription disposal program in 2012, with the number of prescriptions to dispose of growing every year since then. The office collected and destroyed almost 22,000 pounds of medication last year, a record for the county. In 2014, the final was only 16,700 pounds, a 13% increase.
The Sheriffs department feels as though these numbers show that they are moving in the right direction for their county. Opiate deaths seem to agree with the department, as the rate of deaths has decreased while medication disposal has increased.
“While some of that work are due to our programs and an increase in education, most of it is due to the residents of this county,” Rich Stanek, the Hennepin County sheriff, acknowledges. However, the local sheriffs office was one of the first agencies in the area to implement drop boxes. These drop boxes create a system for residents to dispose of excess medication no matter what time or day it is.
The disposal and destruction of these prescriptions help to keep others from using them or selling them to others. In addition, it helps to avoid contaminating the local groundwater in the area.
Prescription Drug Abuse in Hennepin County
2014 reports show that local treatment centers were operating at an all-time high for the treatment of opiate addictions. The abuse and spread of prescription drugs have become an epidemic in the U.S. with the Mayo Clinic calling it an “increasing problem” while the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that it is a “serious public health problem.”
That is because statistics shows that over fifty-two million people have used prescription drugs for non-pain and medical uses in their lives. While most of the time it is opiates, depressants, and stimulants, often these abuses lead to far bigger problems. When users become addicted, not only can they turn to illegal drugs but they may also turn to crime.
In fact, the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office has stated that abusing prescription drugs is the primary route for individuals to become addicted to illegal opiates such as heroin. The CDS has releainformation stating that almost fifty percent of heroin users were also addicted to prescription opiates and painkillers.
Research into why this is showed that in the nineties, there was a large push to treat chronic pain with prescriptions such as Vicodin and OxyContin. More and more doctors began to prescribe this opiate, and an epidemic was born. This caused new regulations and the limiting of access to prescriptions, which in turn led to addicts looking for a new fix on the streets.
This heroin epidemic slowly overtook all of the United States, and the CDC says that use of heroin has spiked. The rate of use has doubled in adults between the ages of 18-25 in the last ten years, and the current numbers across the country show that it hasn’t begun to slow. Programs such as the prescription drug disposal can hopefully help control these numbers.