2015-04-15 / Front Page

Crime Chat With DA Brown: Prescription Drug Abuse

By Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown

In the 24 years since I became District Attorney of Queens County, the dangers involving the misuse of prescription drugs have escalated at an alarming rate. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug overdoses nationwide have more than doubled from 1999 to 2013. CDC’s analysis shows that there were 22,767 deaths in the United States in 2013 connected to drug overdoses, and almost 72 percent of those deaths involved opioid analgesics (also called opioid pain relievers or prescription painkillers). In 2011, drug misuse and abuse accounted for approximately 2.5 million emergency room visits, and more than half of those visits were attributed to the misuse or abuse of prescription pharmaceuticals. Moreover, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, in 2013, nearly half of all poison exposures involved pharmaceutical medications. Among children under the age of six, pharmaceutical drugs accounted for approximately 40 percent of reports to poison control centers.
While most people take prescription medication responsibly, the potential for misuse of these medications is high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2010, one in 12 high school seniors reported recreational use of the prescription painkiller Vicodin, and one in 20 admitted using Oxycontin, another powerful painkiller.
As District Attorney, I have witnessed the ravages of drug use and addiction on our communities and on our children. Unused prescription medications in homes create a grave public risk to all of us. These drugs can be accidentally ingested, stolen, misused or abused. According to CDC data, the vast majority of drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2013 were unintentional.
In order to protect yourself and members of your household from addiction, overdose and even death:
1. Make sure that all prescription medication is secured in its original packaging. In cases of accidental overdoses, awareness of what medication was ingested is critical to ensure proper medical care.


2. Use all prescription medication as directed by your health care provider.
3. Never share your prescription medications with anyone.


4. Keep all prescription medications away from children. Make sure that prescription drugs are kept in a secure area in child-proof packaging.


5. Keep track of all prescription medication to ensure that there are no “missing pills.”


6. Properly dispose of all unused prescription medications. Bring unused medications to local law enforcement or to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Prescription Take-Back Centers. Do not throw away or flush down the toilet unused medications. Improper disposal of medications leads to theft and contamination of water supplies.


7. Report any theft of pharmaceutical medication to your local police precinct.


Following the above simple steps can go a long way in helping to end the medicine abuse epidemic.


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