Pamela C. Marsh: National Prescription Drug Take Back Day


Pills turned in by pain clinics to meet the deadline for a 2011 Florida law that tries to regulate the dangerous spread of pill mills and increase in deaths from overdose from prescription drug overdose.

The Associated Press
Published: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 4:57 p.m.

As a prosecutor, I constantly see the devastating effect of drug abuse on individuals whose lives are changed forever after they are convicted of selling and trafficking illegal controlled substances. I also see, up close and personal, the destruction of families and the violent impact on our communities, neighborhoods and schools.

As a mother, I also know how hard it can be to talk with our children about these difficult subjects, but I urge you to open the dialogue, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. It is literally a matter of life and death; and yes, your child is a potential victim. Today, the leading drugs causing death in this country are no longer heroin or cocaine, they are prescription drugs.

Drug overdose deaths among teens 15 to 19 year olds are up a staggering 91 percent over the past decade. These overdose deaths occur because every day 2,000 teens in this country are using prescription drugs for the first time for the sole purpose of getting high. A recent report that prescription drug abuse declined in 2011 also recognizes that “the number of people addicted to pain relievers grew from 936,000 in 2002 to 1.4 million in 2011” and “about a third of the addicts are 18 to 25.” (Tallahassee Democrat, September 25, 2012, at 9A)

The year 2009 marked the first year that more people in the United States died from drug overdoses than from automobile accidents. Our nation is abusing prescription drugs at unprecedented levels. In fact, more people abuse prescription drugs than the number of people who use cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, combined.

So talk with your children about prescription drug abuse, but don’t stop there. Educate yourself and talk to your children about “synthetic drugs,” too. A recent and equally troubling trend, these substances are commonly referred to as “bath salts” or “spice”; but don’t be deceived. These chemicals, sold in tiny packages in tobacco shops or convenience stores, as well as on the internet, are hallucinogenic and potentially toxic, when smoked, snorted or ingested.

Despite efforts by largely foreign manufacturers to market and distribute these substances as “safe” or “legal” alternatives to more commonly feared and prohibited substances, the effect of these substances is generally stronger and more severe than the effect of the drugs they attempt to mimic. Side effects include irregular heartbeat, dopamine depletion, elevated blood pressure, convulsions and ultimately non-responsiveness and death. From 2010 to 2011, calls to poison control centers rose from 304 to well over 6,000 as a result of human exposure to synthetic cathinones (“bath salts”).

On September 23, “The Partnership at Drugfree.org” began its multi-year Medicine Abuse Project campaign to help bring much needed attention to this epidemic and to educate the public about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Research has shown that the most successful way to prevent drug overdose is to prevent drug use in the first place.

This year, the U.S. Attorneys’ Community has teamed up with “The Partnership at Drugfree.org” to help parents find the resources they need to talk with their children and to educate citizens about the dangers lurking in their own medicine cabinets. Excellent information regarding synthetic cannabinoids and synthetic cathinones is also available at www.drugfree.org.

As their partner in this initiative, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide, including the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, will be helping to promote the Drug Enforcement Administration’s fifth National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on September 29, when citizens can turn in unwanted and expired medications in a safe and responsible manner at locations across the country.

Since the program began, the DEA and partnering law enforcement agencies have collected over 1.5 million pounds, or 774 tons, of prescription drugs. Additional Information regarding the Take Back program and locations for drop-offs can be found on our website at www.justice.gov/usao/fln.

Bottom line: talk to your children, and do it now. Don’t wait until it’s too late to make a difference. If you are a parent like me, and you are ready to discuss these issues with your son or daughter, it’s important that you have the best resources available to make this an educational and informative discussion. Please go to our website or to drugfree.org for helpful tools and more information. But don’t stop there. Talk about the subject with other parents, at your child’s school and with your friends. Help us get the word out, and help us save lives.

Pamela C. Marsh,

U.S. Attorney

Northern District of Florida

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