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R. DARRELL WEAVER: Prescription drug abuse; untangling the harm

August 13, 2013

Prescription drug issues have recently become a plight that has garnered much concern and it is largely due to the steady and unacceptable rise of overdose deaths from prescription drugs. Both illicit and legal drugs must be examined by four major factors that influence their dynamics:
• The availability of the drugs
• The pricing of the substances
• Risk adversity
• Public acceptance
Based on these criteria, there is no mystery why prescription drug abuse is a troubling challenge, especially when it comes to the unused and unwanted drugs in our cabinets.
These drugs are frequently kept in the open or in cabinets not locked, which makes the substances readily available. The pricing is not a factor, since it’s perceived to be free after the initial purchase. There seems to be minimal risk in covertly opening a kitchen or bathroom cabinet of an unsuspecting, innocent family member; or sneaking into their purse to pocket a few pills. Also, there is more public acceptance of prescription drugs versus the illusion of the “dirty” street drugs.
This is a perfect storm. Two years ago, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics birthed a plan to place permanent containers in local police departments and sheriff’s offices, where citizens can dispose of unwanted prescriptions both safely and in an environmentally conscience manner. Thus the “Safe Trip for Scripts” program was born, the first of its kind in the nation. The community response and results have been astonishing. The Bureau has provided 140 receptacles around the state, placing zero burden of operation on local enforcement and has collected an astonishing 20 tons of unwanted prescriptions! Yes, 20 tons of unwanted prescriptions. In addition, OBN has a partnership with Covanta Energy of Tulsa, which takes the prescriptions, at no cost to the Bureau or the tax payers, and converts them to green energy — certainly a “Win-Win” for our state.
It only takes one pill in the right scenario to cause harm or even death. It makes me ponder and ask, how many lives have been and will be saved by the program? We will never know. But we do know that for the first time in the state, drug overdose deaths have decreased from 807 in 2011 to 578 in 2012. This is relevant because drug overdose deaths had skyrocketed in the last 10 years 137 percent increase at one point. I believe the decline in overdose deaths is due to the “Safe Trips for Scripts” program coupled with the fact that more of our medical professionals are utilizing the only real-time prescription monitoring program in the nation housed at OBN. The PMP is an intervention tool, helping medical professionals make informed decisions regarding their patients’ prior prescription drug history.
These are positive steps to untangle the harm of prescription drugs and you can do your part by going to www.ok.gov/obndd, locate the disposal box near you, and dispose of your unwanted prescriptions.
Together we can make a difference in our great state.

R. Darrell Weaver is a 26-year veteran Agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. In September 2006, he was appointed Director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control. Weaver is an active member of the FBI National Academy Associates, the Association of Oklahoma Narcotics Enforcers, the Oklahoma Sheriff’s and Peace Officers Association, the Oklahoma Police Chief’s Association, the Cameron University Alumni Association. He can be reached at 1(800) 522-8031 or (405) 521-2885.

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