According to a study soon to be released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 70 percent of men and women who abuse prescription pain relievers obtain the drugs from friends or relatives, usually with permission and for free. The study highlights the public education challenge that law enforcement officials face in persuading legitimate prescription drug users to dispose of their medications properly when no longer needing them.
“At the end of the day, our strongest tool is vigilance among everyone with access to a medicine cabinet,” said Gil Kerlikowske, chief of the White House’s anti-drug campaign, in a statement accompanying the study’s results.
The government is working to make it easier for people and institutions to dispose of unused prescription drugs under legislation signed into law by President Barack Obama in October 2010. The DEA estimates that 7 million Americans abuse pharmaceuticals, leading to a 346 percent spike in overdose deaths from oxycodone alone from 2005 to 2010.