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Maybe you’ve heard about “The Opioid Crisis” in the news. It is one of the biggest public health epidemics of our time.

According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from a drug overdose. Around 66 percent of the more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved an opioid. In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was 5 times higher than in 1999, and on average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Unfortunately, according to the Region 4 Needs Assessment for the 23 counties that make up this part of Texas, “compared to the state and to the other regions, Regions 4 & 5 have the highest reported rate of non‐medical current (30‐day) use, school year use, and lifetime use for all grades and for the 12th grade of prescription drugs (Texas School Survey, 2016). When looking at lifetime use of selected prescription drugs among Grades 7‐12, Region 4 & 5 students have the highest reported rate in the state for the two opioid categories.”

How did we get here?

“The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when doctors became increasingly aware of the burdens of pain,” according to an article from news website Vox.com. “Pharmaceutical companies saw an opportunity, and pushed doctors — with misleading marketing about the safety and efficacy of the drugs — to prescribe opioids to treat all sorts of pain. Doctors, many exhausted by dealing with difficult-to-treat pain patients, complied — in some states, writing enough prescriptions to fill a bottle of pills for each resident. The drugs proliferated, making America the world’s leader in opioid prescriptions.”

Because there are so many drugs out there, part of how to prevent the problem from getting worse is to properly dispose of leftover prescription drugs that are no longer needed, and not saving them for a rainy day.

There are several ways you can dispose of your prescription medications and keep them from falling into the wrong hands. One, use a prescription drug drop box if one is available in your community. These are a great option because the drugs are incinerated by law enforcement, keeping them out of landfills and the water supply. Here is our list of those boxes in East Texas.

Two, participate in the twice-annual DEA Takeback event. The event is typically held in April and October every year.

Three, use a prescription drug pouch that will deactivate the drugs if one is available to you. Ask your pharmacist about other good ways to dispose of your prescription drugs.