U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is firing another salvo in the war against prescription drug abuse. He's proposing that the Drug Enforcement Administration ease restrictions that make it harder for pharmacies to let people bring in controlled substances for disposal.
It's a problem that's getting worse in upstate New York, according to Michelle Caliva, director of the Upstate Poison Control Center. She's looked at the number of calls involving abuse of prescription pain killers over the last decade.
"There's been a marked increase every single year," Caliva said. "This year, it's almost double what it was last year at this time. And I ran the stats through the end of July."
The rise coincides with stories of pain killer thefts, which are also controlled substances in people's homes, becoming more disturbing.
"One of the worst is the student who comes to visit the dying grandparent, and steals their medication because it's there and accessible," Caliva said.
Caliva supports Schumer's latest proposal to get these drugs out of medicine cabinets, by allowing pharmacies and communities to host drug take back events for controlled substances, like prescription pain killers, without the involvement of the DEA. The Democrat says right now the federal bureaucracy is holding things up.
"New York state has passed a law already to allow pharmacies to conduct these take back programs," Schumer said. "But the federal government, the DEA, has not filed regulations to let it happen unless they are under DEA auspices.'
Schumer says the majority of abusers of these drugs are getting them out of medicine cabinets.
"Where do most kids get addicted," Schumer said. "Not by buying it on the black market or from a drug dealer, like they would with heroin and cocaine, that's why it's so prevalent. Right here. They see it on their shelves. They hear from their friends it's a great high, and they just take it."
The senator says more than 70 percent of people addicted to pain killers, get them from home.
Schumer will ask the DEA to file those regulations in a timely manner, as well as loosen up some confiscated drug money to create a prescription drug buy back program. Mike Duteau of Kinney Drugs says if they could offer a take back every month for controlled substances, they would, because there is a need.
"We know that it is overwhelming, based on the results from a take back," Duteau said. "We had people bring back drugs from 30 years ago that they were hanging on to, just in case."
Several Kinney Drug Stores will host a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, in conjunction with police and the DEA, later this month.