U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom on Monday cited a bunch of statistics to help make his point — that prescription drug abuse is “America’s fastest growing drug problem,” that everyone can fight it, that this week is a good time to join the cause.
“Every day, 2,500 American teens are using a prescription drug to get high for the first time,” Grissom said at a Wichita news conference to publicize a national effort to combat the problem. “More Americans are dying from drug overdoses each year than the number who are killed in auto accidents.”
The beginning of the school year is a good time to raise awareness to a problem that is taking such a toll on young people, Grissom said.
Deaths from prescription painkillers have tripled in the past decade, he said.
Kansas has some of its own illustrations of the problem, he said, citing the case of Haysville physician Stephen Schneider. The doctor was sentenced in 2010 to 30 years in prison after evidence showed he “illegally prescribed controlled substances to dozens of patients who were addicted to the pain killers, resulting in deaths and overdoses.”
Parents should talk to their children about the dangers of drugs because experts say that that alone can make kids “50 percent less likely to use them,” Grissom said.
Often, he said, young people get dangerous prescription drugs in their own parents’ or grandparents’ homes, by opening cabinets and pilfering leftover or forgotten painkillers, maybe from dad’s shoulder surgery or grandpa’s hip replacement.
People coming into a home also can help themselves to the drugs.
Part of the tragedy is that young people get addicted to prescription painkillers, and when they run out, they quickly find that a “hit” of a prescription painkiller costs more on the street than a “hit” of heroin, he said. So the prescription addiction becomes a “gateway drug” leading to heroin addiction.
Grissom asked Kansans to join National Drug Take Back Day, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, law enforcement agencies nationwide will be accepting no-longer-needed prescription drugs so they can be disposed of safely. Flushing them into the water supply isn’t safe.
In Wichita, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office will have three prescription drug drop-off sites Saturday: the Sedgwick County Zoo, 5500 Zoo Blvd; the county’s household hazardous waste collection facility, 801 Stillwell; and the Oaklawn Activity Center, 4900 S. Clifton.
For the closest drop-off location in Kansas, go to www.dea.gov and click “Got Drugs?”