MPB’s Evelina Burnett reports on efforts to get these drugs off the streets and out of medicine cabinets.
Over the weekend, the Drug Enforcement Administration held a Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, where people can drop off unused drugs locally.
"It's extremely important to get them out of homes because unfortunately a lot of times drugs that are not used are left in medicine cabinets, and oftentimes kids get them in their hands. They start using them, get addicted to them, and it creates a problem," says Daniel Comeaux, resident agent in charge for the DEA in Gulfport.
Nationally, almost 70 percent
of people who abused prescription drugs say they got them from a family member or friend. It’s a problem here in Mississippi too, especially among young people.
"When we asked the kids in Mississippi where they're getting their prescription drugs from, most of them said they were getting them from home, and the next level were getting them from a friend. The point is, they're not buying them from a drug dealer, they're not ordering them online -- they're getting them from home or from a friend," says Jerri Avery, director of the bureau of alcohol and drug services for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health.
She adds: "One of the things people don't realize with those overdoses is that some of those were accidental overdoses by children, who may find prescriptoin drugs at home and think they're candy, because they look a lot like candy. So some of these overdoses that you read about, some of these numbers, are actually children who have accidently ingested these medicines."
The Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics says that, in 2012, 90% percent of drug overdose deaths in Mississippi were caused by prescription drugs.
If you missed Saturday’s take-back day, you can also drop off unused prescription drugs in secure drop boxes in some drivers license offices
around the state.
The drop boxes were put in place by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics
. MBN Director Marshall Fisher says they’ve collected more than 180 pounds of drugs from the drop boxes so far this year.
Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control says
deaths from prescription painkillers are now at “epidemic” levels, greater than the number of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.
Marshall Fisher, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics says the problem hits closer to home than most Mississippians realize.
"The only ones that we really hear about, unless we know somebody personally, are celebrities. But every day, multiple times a day, those tragedies that we only see on the front page when it's a Heath Ledger or an Amy Winehouse, those tragedies are repeated, with real people with real families who love them like those other people did," says Marshall Fisher, director of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.
The Food & Drug Administration is proposing changing the classification of hydrocodone-combination painkillers, such as Vicodin, to make them harder to get. Fisher says hydrocodone is currently the most-abused narcotic in Mississippi.