Mark Herring, the Virginia Attorney General, is working to combat the growing problem of opioid abuse in his state. Virginia, like many other areas in the United States, is currently facing an influx of prescription drug dependence that is leaving law makers, medical professionals, law enforcement, and emergency response personnel looking for ways to help curb this dangerous habit.
Communities across Virginia are suffering from the heartbreaking aftermath of drug abuse, and a recent report filed by Herring’s office shed some light on just how many Virginians have lost their lives in recent years as the result of opioid addiction:
- Prescription opioid overdose deaths have risen 44% between 2007 and 2015, from 399 deaths to 576.
- Heroin overdose deaths have risen more than 600% between 2010 and 2015, from 48 to 342.
- Fentanyl deaths have risen 367% from 2007 to 2015, from 48 to 224.
- More than 500 people went to a Virginia emergency room for a heroin overdose in the first four months of 2016, a 250% increase over 2015.
In Search of Solutions
In light of the staggering statistics above, new measures are being taken to limit access to prescription drugs in Virginia, starting with what is in the medicine cabinet. To that end, Herring has recently secured funding to implement a new method of disposing of unused or unwanted prescription drugs throughout his state.
As of November of 2016, Virginians will be able to pick up free drug deactivation kits in many areas throughout the state. For example, residents of Galax County can access kits at Galax County Twin County Prevention Coalition, or Galax City Health Department. These free kits are designed to allow individuals to safely and easily dispose of medications that could otherwise wind up in the water supply or in the wrong hands.
While it was once commonplace to flush old medications down the toilet or wash them down the drain, this practice has shown to have a damaging environmental effect on the water supply. And tossing unwanted prescriptions into the trash can prove deadly if children happen upon them, or if addicted individuals find them. But by deactivating these drugs with a kit, the medications can be rendered ineffective and safely disposed of.
A Multifaceted Approach
Research has shown that there is a strong relationship between the abuse of prescription painkillers and developing an addiction to other substances of abuse later in life. In fact, many individuals who have been lawfully prescribed certain medications by their doctors have gone on to develop a dependence on these substances due to their habit-forming properties. But by limiting the amount of excess prescription medications in the home, it is thought that drug deactivation kits can have a positive impact on the opioid crisis Virginia is currently facing.
The availability of free deactivation kits in Virginia is but one aspect of the comprehensive plan that is needed to stop the rising death toll from opioid addiction in the state. Additionally, the public needs access to quality, preventative education that will inform them of the perils of prescription drug abuse, and young people in particular need access to this life-saving information. Also, opioid treatment centers throughout the state can play a role in the recovery process by providing the services and supports that opioid-dependent individuals need to overcome their battles with addiction.