A recent press release from the Southern District of Illinois U.S. Attorney’s Office said that on National Prescription Drug Takeback Day they collected, and will dispose of, a whopping 6,636 pounds of unused medication from Southern Illinois alone. This, in addition to the 937,443 pounds that were collected nationwide that day, an amount equal to over 400 tons of prescription drugs.
According to the statement,
Residents of the Southern District of Illinois returned over three tons of prescription drugs for destruction on National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, Steven D. Weinhoeft, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today [June 6, 2019].
DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day was held on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Now in its ninth year, the biannual nationwide event provides a safe and convenient way for individuals to dispose of unwanted, unused, or expired prescription medications. According to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, millions of Americans misuse prescription drugs each year. A majority of those drugs are obtained from family and friends, often from the home medicine cabinet.
The public response so far this year has been tremendous. 6,636 pounds of prescription drugs were collected in the Southern District of Illinois alone. In Madison County, 897 pounds of drugs were turned in – a total nearly matched in St. Clair County, where 892 pounds were returned. Nationwide, the haul reached 937,443 pounds (468.72 tons) of prescription drugs amassed at more than 6,000 collection sites. Nearly 5,000 law enforcement agencies participated in the event.
Pam Zekman, in a story for CBS Chicago, described the grim state of the fight against opioid abuse in the state of Illinois and the massive crackdown by law enforcement to try and stop the massive flow of opioids stemming from doctors' offices:
'The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (DPR) has disciplined more than a hundred doctors in the last three years for issues involving the writing of prescriptions. Disciplinary action has ranged from reprimands to revocations of their medical license..'
In an article in the Missouri Medicine, Ronald Hirsch, MD, describes how hospitals were incentivized financially by Medicare to have favorable responses to the surveys given to patients. He also talks of “pill mills,” doctors who set up shop just to profit off prescribing painkillers:
'...allow me to place blame for our current opioid crisis and provide a roadmap for further investigation. First, in all fairness, I will start with physicians. We overprescribe opioids, just as we overprescribe antibiotics.'
Medicare again comes into play due to people "doctor shopping" after they become addicted to whatever drug they had been prescribed. Marry the two of these and you have millions of pills flooding a state.
Meanwhile, law enforcement tries to catch these doctors, described as “drug dealers in lab coats." Law enforcement attempting to keep already prescribed pills off the street are having yet another Prescription Drug Takeback Day planned in October.
This comes as the likelihood of opioid overdoses continue to rise among preventable injuries and fatalities in America.