According to Arizona Department of Health Services director, Will Humble, “an epidemic of painkiller misuse and abuse” is killing more people every year than car crashes. As communities across the state are being devastated by the abuse, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office is partnering with Arizona Crime Prevention Association, Inc. (ACPA) and the Arizona Prescriptions Drug Misuse and Abuse Initiative to bring new drug collection containers to police department lobbies.
Now, law enforcement agencies can actively provide a safe and secure location for collecting unused, expired, and unwanted drugs by providing these permanent collection containers.
According to Humble, the “institutionalization” of the phrase, “Pain as the 5th Vital Sign” in the 1990s “sparked a wildfire of unintended consequences that continues to ravage our healthcare landscape to this day.”
Arizona had the sixth-highest level of prescription pain-reliever abuse in the nation in 2010-2011. According to Cronkite News, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, said 5.66 percent of Arizona residents ages 12 and above were misusing prescription drugs in that period, compared to a national rate of 4.57 percent.
While the biennial Arizona Youth Survey, which samples students in grades 8, 10 and 12 for several categories, including drug use, showed the percentage of students who used prescription drugs in the previous 30 days dropped from 10.4 percent statewide in 2010 to 7.9 percent in 2012, Arizona’s rural communities are being devastated by drug abuse including painkiller misuse and abuse.
The CDC reports that in 2010, more than 25 percent of U.S. high school students surveyed said they took a medication that was not prescribed for them. “We’ve become a society that expects to be pain free,” says officials with the Education Development Center. “Opioid pain relievers are being prescribed at record levels. When these drugs are misused by adolescents and teens, they can lead to other drug abuse. They can be lethal.”
“Many teens falsely think that because prescription medicines are prescribed by a physician, inexpensive, and widely available, that they are safer than illicit drugs. But they’re not. Also, opioids can be a gateway to heroin use,” said EDC’s Sally Fogerty in an 2013 EDC article. “Prescription painkillers, particularly opioids (e.g., codeine or oxycodone), weren’t always widely available. Now they’re everywhere. They’re in parents’ and grandparents’ medicine cabinets, within reach of adolescents. Kids get their wisdom teeth out and are prescribed painkillers.”
Attorney General Tom Horne will be joined by Sam Burba from Not My Kid and Stephanie Siete with Community Bridges to introduce the new collection program today.