Drug Take-Back Day attacks addiction threat in Arizona

These bottles were turned over at a 2013 drug-takeback day in Tempe. (Photo by Peter Haden/Cronkite News)

The graveyard of bright orange prescription bottles and stray single-dose tablets in many home medicine cabinets may be concealing the threat of addiction.

Officials say that too often those pills wind up in the hands of young people, particularly painkillers leading to opioid abuse.

“The biggest vulnerability we have in America is the home medicine cabinet that could be used as a source of supply,” said Erica Curry, a spokeswoman for the Drug Enforcement Administration in Phoenix.

With that in mind, leaders in Arizona and elsewhere are marking National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day by promoting drop boxes around the state, including a temporary one available Saturday at the State Capitol Executive Tower.

“Prescription Drug Take-Back Day addresses a crucial and growing problem in Arizona and across the nation,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in a news release. “By educating and encouraging individuals to properly discard their unwanted medication – rather than let it sit in their medicine cabinets, where it’s easily accessible and susceptible to misuse – we can do our part to curb prescription drug abuse in our state.”

More than 100 locations around Arizona offer drop boxes for any and all unwanted, unneeded or expired medications. The process is free and anonymous.

An in-depth investigation by Cronkite News reported in January that addiction to prescription painkillers often leads to heroin, another opioid that has become a cheaper high.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 78.9 percent of youths who misused prescription drugs in the past month say they got the drugs from friends or right out of the home.

According to Curry, the best way to combat the problem is education and reducing demand, which led to National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day in 2010.

‘I think this is the best comprehensive plan that we have in order to attack the prescription drug problem,” she said.