Throwing away old prescription opioid drugs can save lives

ByDonald L. Leech

Apr 21, 2022

In Florida, someone dies every two hours from an opioid overdose. That’s 12 Floridians who die and 12 Florida families who lose a loved one EVERY DAY – to something that could have been prevented.

This overdose problem is not getting better. With 2.56% of all deaths here caused by drug overdoses, Florida suffers from an overdose death rate 23.2% higher than the national average.

Prescription Drug Take Back Day is April 30 and you should take the opportunity to rid your home of unnecessary prescription drugs by returning them to an authorized collection point. Otherwise, it could lead to an overdose in your teen or another family member.

Opioid overdoses: Palm Beach County can get up to $53 million from the National Opioid Settlement. It cannot replace 3,792 dead.

How many of us have a few pills of oxycodone or other addictive and dangerous drugs left over from surgery long ago? Even if they are outdated, these medications can be misused by a loved one, which can lead to addiction or death.

Clearly, prescription drugs play an important role in medical and behavioral health when used safely as prescribed by a physician. However, when abused, they can be deadly. In fact, in the United States, 40 people die every day from an overdose of prescribed narcotic drugs.

The recent increase in illicit drug use makes the challenge even greater. Along with soaring overdose rates, a new drug known as isotonitazene – 20 to 100 times more potent than fentanyl – has made its way to Florida. The drug, often referred to as ISO, has already been linked to more than 40 deaths nationwide in 2021, including two in Pasco County. Over the past spring break, Tampa has also seen several deaths of young adults from drugs containing fentanyl. Drugs like cocaine alone are dangerous, but with the introduction of ISO and drugs containing fentanyl, the danger and possibility of an overdose increases exponentially.

All Floridians have the potential to protect themselves and their families – not just those who can afford it. Those without insurance or the means to pay can still receive treatment for substance use disorders, through behavioral health providers overseen by Florida’s Seven Managing Entities.

The seven local managing entities work with a network of more than 300 behavioral health care providers who provide services to more than 300,000 of Florida’s most vulnerable residents – including children, pregnant women, veterans and the chronically homeless. Managing Entities ensure that quality care is delivered to people who desperately need it.

I encourage everyone to participate in Prescription Drug Recovery Day by safely disposing of your unnecessary prescription drugs. This seemingly minor gesture could save a life.

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Natalie Kelly is CEO of the Florida Association of Managing Entities.