The skyrocketing growth in the number of Americans addicted to prescription drugs is due to easy accessibility and the diminished perception of risk, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.
Gil Kerlikowske was among the witnesses who spoke at the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing about the problem and the many federal and state programs aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse, CNN reports. Michele Leonhart, Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), told the subcommittee that prescription drugs often remain in medicine cabinets long after a person has stopped taking the drugs, which can lead to abuse, accidental ingestion or illegal distribution of the drugs.
The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2009, more than 5 million Americans misused prescription pain medicine. More than 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs say they got them from friends and relatives, according to the article.
Last month, the White House released a plan that aims to cut the use of prescription painkillers by 15 percent in five years. The plan includes doctor training, promoting prescription database in all states and increased focus on rooting out illegal “pill mill” clinics.
The DEA has organized two national prescription drug take-back days, to collect medications that are unused or expired. The most recent take-back day collected 188 tons of drugs around the country. CNN reports that one measure awaiting a final ruling from DEA would allow electronic tracking of prescriptions. The measure is designed to prevent prescription forgeries and “doctor shopping” to collect multiple prescriptions for painkillers.