Curbing Prescription Drug Abuse Will Help Control Heroin Epidemic

February 19, 2014

Solutions Include: Enhanced Rx Database and  PA MedReturn Prescription Drug Drop Off Program

Washington, PA – The key to controlling Pennsylvania’s heroin epidemic is giving law enforcement the tools it needs to curb the abuse of prescription opiates said David Freed, Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) President and Cumberland County District Attorney at a roundtable discussion that took place today in Washington County.

“Like a tornado, heroin is a drug that devastates everything in its path,” said Freed. “Heroin destroys lives and for too Pennsylvanians, heroin addiction starts with prescription drug abuse.”

To help prevent abuse in the first place, Freed said the PDAA has asked the legislature to provide law enforcement with an enhanced prescription drug database to assist in better detecting abuse. In addition, PDAA, in partnership with Governor Tom Corbett and the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), recently launched a prescription drug “take back” program. Known as PA MedReturn, the program allows people to dispose of unused and expired prescription and over-the-counter medication safely and anonymously. Washington County has installed 19 of the 250 PA MedReturn boxes expected to be installed throughout the state.

“In recent years, district attorneys across Pennsylvania have seen an increase in teenage pill parties, driving under the influence, and a dramatic increase in the use of heroin all related to prescription drug addiction,” said Freed. “In this case, prevention is our first priority. Law enforcement is working to put the right tools in place to help stop addiction and the crime and violence that comes with it in the first place.”

While the state House recently passed H.B. 1694 to expand Pennsylvania’s current database, the bill contained was amended to restrict the ability of law enforcement to access information about the use of regulated, prescription drugs. PDAA hopes to change that with an amendment added to the bill that contained language to allow law enforcement the same access to the database as pharmacy techs.

At the forum, which included U.S. Senator Pat Toomey, District Attorney Eugene Vittone and Pennsylvania Secretary of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis, Freed pointed out that prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and has been classified an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Pennsylvania, heroin is the most commonly cited drug of use among treatment admissions. The state has seen more heroin users than every other state besides California and Illinois. Almost every county has seen the toll heroin takes on its citizens including: addiction, overdoses, crime, homelessness, violence and death.

“There are many reasons for the heroin epidemic,” said Freed. “These reasons include the staggering number of individuals addicted to prescription drugs who end up using heroin. Our hope is that through an enhanced prescription drug database legislation and the PA MedReturn program we will provide a 1-2 punch to drug abuse.”

To find out more about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, information about getting help for a loved one and a county-by-county listing of PA MedReturn boxes is available at at www.ddap.pa.gov.