Prescription drugs were collected Saturday at dozens of locations in California and more than 3,400 across the country in a national effort to curb substance abuse.
Expired and unused medications were accepted anonymously at local sites, sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The drugs, which could contaminate water supplies if flushed down the drain or tossed in the trash, will eventually be incinerated for safe disposal.
Prescription drug abuse has increased dramatically over the last 10 years. The number of people in the United States seeking treatment for abuse of pain relievers – including hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine – increased by 477 percent from 1998 to 2008, according to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
Among people age 12 and older, nonmedical use of pain relievers was the most prevalent illicit drug after marijuana, the administration said. Misuse of pain relievers accounted for 5.6 percent of admissions for substance abuse treatment.
Those in treatment programs were younger in 2008 than they were a decade ago, the report found. The average age of admission was 31.7 in 2008, compared to 37.4 in 1998. Among those seeking treatment for other substances, however, the average age increased, from 33.5 to 34.6.
Men and women sought treatment for pain reliever abuse in about equal numbers. Among ethnic groups in treatment, the report found:
- Whites made up 88.7 percent of admissions in 2008, up from 85.1 percent in 1998.
- Latinos were 3.4 percent of those treated in 1998 and 4 percent in 2008. The number of American Indians seeking treatment doubled, from 0.8 percent to 1.7 percent.
- Admission decreased among blacks (from 7.3 percent to 3.5 percent) and Asians and Pacific Islanders (1.8 percent to 0.5 percent).
More than four out of 10 people in treatment for prescription drug abuse were unemployed in 2008, compared to 28.6 percent in 1998.