They are hidden away, in plain sight. In prescription bottles in medicine cabinets in countless homes across New England. Dangerous unused and unwatched prescription drugs.
’I compare this to a loaded gun in the house,’ says Joanne Peterson, founder of Learn 2 Cope, a growing support group for families of people addicted to prescription drugs and heroin. For many young people, that addiction starts with the medicine cabinet. ’Most people don’t know. They innocently have it in their cabinet. They don’t need it. It goes in the cabinet, they forget about it. They might think about it a year later. It could still be there, or it could be gone,’ Peterson says.
The missing pills are what concerns DEA officials like Steve Derr of the Boston office, who says don’t think that people don’t go into someone else’s home to rifle through the medicine cabinet to get drugs like Oxycontin. ’A lot more common than you think. Because you have such a big user population in New England,’ Derr says. OxyContin and other opiates are prescribed for pain management for cancer patients, and people recovering from surgery. The problem is, long after drugs are no longer needed, no one knows what to do with them, and people can not just bring them back to the drug store where they got them. ’Actually, federal law prohibits that right now. Federal law prohibits end users, like you and I, from taking the drugs back to the drug store,’ Derr says.
Medicine cabinets provide easy access for addicts or for young people experimenting with these powerful addictive drugs. ’They don’t’ think they can ever become an addict. They think they can try something, be partying one night and be ok. And it doesn’t work that way,’ Peterson says. ’We see more young people use prescription drugs because young people don’t look at that as a bad thing to do. They’re not using marijuana, cocaine, heroin, they are just taking a pill,’ Peterson says.
Getting those forgotten pills out of the medicine cabinet is one way to slow the furious path to addiction. The DEA is holding a nationwide prescription drug take back. It’s a day when anyone can get rid of their unwanted and un-needed prescription drugs. ’We’re not looking for what you are bringing in, who you are, things of that nature. We are looking for prescription medication,’ Derr says. Joanne Peterson knows prescription drug take back day won’t completely solve the scourge of addiction, but she thinks it is a valuable fist step, ’there are so many different reasons why this epidemic is the way it is. But this is a major step forward if these take back programs become consistent and happen all the time.’