It is no secret that opiate abuse, addiction, and overdose are creating a huge problem in Louisiana. The number of drug overdose deaths is rapidly skyrocketing, and it was heavily reported last year that Louisiana handed out more prescriptions for painkillers than there are residents in the state, according to data from the Associated Press and the Center for Public Integrity. Louisiana comes in sixth in the country for rate of prescriptions written per capita at 1.03 painkiller prescriptions written per resident in 2015 – a fact that has likely contributed heavily to the development of opiate addiction for thousands of Louisiana residents.
In response to this clear crisis, state government and local organizations are working together with the medical community to implement new strategies designed to get these pills off the streets. While doctors work to manage their prescribing practices much more closely and help patients who are clearly struggling with a drug abuse problem due to their pain management prescription, State Attorney General Jeff Landry is taking action as well.
Earlier this year, State Attorney General Landry brokered a deal with Pfizer, the drug company that makes Narcan, that would provide first responders across the state with access to that lifesaving medication in the form of single draw-down doses as needed at no cost.
This month, Landry continued to fight against opiate addiction across the state by beginning the process of installing drug take back boxes at local police departments. These boxes provide safe disposal sites free of charge and no questions asked to anyone who would like to get rid of extra medications that are either expired or unneeded.
Said Landry: “By utilizing these drug take back boxes, we can and we will make our homes and our communities safer.”
Why Drug Take Back Boxes Matter
Too often, physicians overprescribe a painkiller after an acute injury or surgery. Patients go home with a month’s supply of Percocet or Lortab when they only needed a few days’ worth of the drug. Either they use the full prescription unnecessarily and struggle with stopping use of the drug, or they leave the unused medication in the cabinet where it may be abused later – by teens or adults looking to experiment, relax, or manage an ache or pain. Because it is not appropriate to flush unwanted to pills or throw them in the trash where they will ultimately end up in groundwater, people often hold onto them indefinitely or hope they notice the next time a Drug Take Back Day is sponsored in the community. But in a few locations in Monroe and Ruston, that is no longer the case.
Said Landry: “This gives people an opportunity to take those drugs out of their medicine cabinets and deposit them safely, knowing they will be destroyed in a safe environment.”
The boxes are permanent and will be located at:
- Monroe Police Department at 700 Wood St., Monroe, La.
- Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office at 400 St. John St., Monroe, La.
- Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office at 161 Road Camp Rd., Ruston, La.
Prescription Drugs Are Not Inherently Safe
Part of the risk of prescription painkillers is that they appear to be “safe” for any and all use because they are legal, approved by a doctor, and dispensed by a pharmacist. While all those things are true, they are true with limits. For example, while prescription painkillers are legal, they are only legal when they are used exactly as prescribed by the person they were prescribed for. They are not safe or legal when:
- Crushed and swallowed or snorted
- Used by someone other than person who got the prescription
- Used for any reason outside the original need for the prescription
- Used in combination with other substances, such as other prescription drugs or legal substances, including alcohol
- Used under false pretenses or fraud (e.g., feigning pain symptoms or “doctor shopping” to get multiple scripts from multiple doctors to treat the same ailment)
Now, with drug take back boxes installed – and hopefully, more to come – there will be one less factor contributing to the rates of prescription painkiller abuse, overdose, and addiction in Louisiana.