Non-medical use of prescription drugs is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country.
In one month, approximately 6.2 million Americans reported use of psychotherapeutic drugs for non-medical use, representing 2.5 percent of the population, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
And every month, the Payson Police Department receives reports of prescription drugs being stolen from medicine cabinets.
To stop pill abuse and theft, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) along with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office and Payson Police Department is hosting a prescription drug “Take-Back” initiative on Saturday, Sept. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Drop expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs off at the Walmart parking lot, where a sheriff’s office mobile command center will be set up.
“With the abuse of prescription medications in our country, we are asking everyone to check their medications to find out what they have that is expired or unused so they can dispose of them in a safe manner,” said Gila County Sheriff’s Lt. Tim Scott. “We are not going to ask any questions and they remain anonymous.”
“In Arizona, kids as young as the eighth grade are using prescription drugs to get high,” said DEA special agent in charge Elizabeth W. Kempshall.
“This effort symbolizes DEA’s commitment to halting the disturbing rise in addiction caused by their misuse and abuse.”
Teens often believe because prescription drugs are legal, they are safer to use than illicit drugs. However, using unauthorized prescription drugs can be deadly.
Abusing narcotics, pain relievers or depressants can slow or stop breathing, cause seizures, respiratory depression and decrease heart rate.
While it is unknown how many patients check in for prescription drug abuse locally, in 2007, 1.9 million nationwide hospital visits were for drug misuse or abuse, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network.
Of those, 31 percent involved nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals.
Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.
Flushing unused medication down the toilet or in the trash is potentially hazardous. The DEA will properly dispose of any medication dropped off.