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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: April 21, 2014


NEW CASTLE (April 21, 2014) - As Delaware prepares for another Drug Take-Back Day, Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf said collecting unnecessary medications is a critical role for families to play in reducing the state's addiction epidemic, especially among young people.

In highlighting the need to rid homes of unnecessary medications, Secretary Landgraf was joined at a press conference today at the New Castle County Public Safety Building by County Executive Thomas P. Gordon, County Police Col. Elmer P. Setting, state Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, state Rep. Michael Barbieri, two Red Clay School District school nurses, and Tim Miller, a young Delawarean who became addicted to prescription drugs taken from his home and now has been in recovery for two years.

"Research shows that one in five high school students have used a prescription drug not prescribed by their doctor," Secretary Landgraf said. "That kind of substance abuse is not only dangerous as a single act, but it also can lead young people down a path to addiction and potentially to death."

In the 2011 Delaware Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 16 percent of high school students thought there was no risk or only a slight risk in taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed for them.

"Our officers have seen firsthand how the addiction and abuse of prescription drugs by our citizens fuels the ongoing heroin, and property crime epidemic," New Castle County Police Col. Elmer P Setting said. "In an effort to combat the ongoing addictions, and help protect our environment, the New Castle County Division of Police provides a secure drop-off location where the public can dispose of unwanted and expired prescription medications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, free of charge."

As a public nurse, Sen. Bethany Hall-Long has been a long-term strong supporter of Drug Take-Back events because she said they are good ways to keep drugs out of the wrong hands in an environmentally safe manner.

"One of today's gateways to drug abuse can be found in the family medicine cabinet," Sen. Hall-Long said. "We know that more young people are getting hooked and killed by the drugs that, when used correctly, can help manage pain or control a cough. We need events like this to help keep unused drugs from creating unintended consequences."

"The Drug Take-Back Day is only the first step," said Rep. Michael Barbieri, Co-Chair of the Joint Health Committee. "We need to continue to educate physicians and the public about addiction, and strengthen our system so it can quickly respond to those in need of help to address an addiction."

Red Clay School District nurses Rebecca King and Megan Fioravanti said they see the challenges that teens face every day and the risk that prescription drugs present.

"Adolescence is a time of transition and adjustment," Fioravanti said. "Some teens will experiment with prescription medications such as painkillers and tranquilizers to deal with anxiety and in an attempt to fit in. Many do not realize the highly addictive nature of these drugs and they are often physically and mentally addicted before they realize it."

King said it is important for parents to be aware of the risks that exist within their own homes. "It is a mistake for parents to think that drugs are only available in back alleys and on the street," she said. "Teens tell us that they are getting prescription drugs from their own medicine cabinet or from a friend's. As school nurses, we also have the unique opportunity to help educate children on the dangers of prescription drug abuse."

Tim Miller, who has been in recovery for two years, said he experimented during his early teen years first with alcohol. A few years later, with prescription medication ready accessible at home, he went further. "I decided to try some pills," he said. "They were opiates. All of my problems went away when I was high." Today, Tim said he is "filled with gratitude for my recovery" and now has a career in helping others into recovery.

More than 70 percent of people abusing prescription pain relievers obtain them through friends or relatives, or by raiding medicine cabinets, according to the 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Twice as many Americans regularly abused prescription drugs than the number who regularly used cocaine, hallucinogens, heroin, and inhalants combined.

"As DHSS Secretary, nearly every day I receive reports from the Medical Examiner's Office of deaths due to suspected overdoses," Secretary Landgraf said. "To reduce these tragedies, we need to combine education and prevention efforts like the Drug Take-Back Day, with strong law enforcement and control measures, and an equally robust treatment and recovery system. Above all, we need to remember that addiction is a disease. With the right intervention, individuals do recover and lead fulfilling lives."

In 2013, the Office of the Chief Medical (OCME) reported preliminary numbers that 140 Delawareans had died from suspected overdoses. In the last six months, 85 Delawareans have died from suspected overdoses, according to OCME reports.

To build a better treatment system, DHSS is working with the Governor's Office, the Departments of State, Safety and Homeland Security, Services to Children, Youth, and Their Families, Correction and Education, the Attorney General's Office, Prescription Drug Action Committee (PDAC), the congressional delegation, county and local governments, the medical community, nonprofit organizations, behavioral health providers, advocates, and people in recovery and their families.

To gain better control over the administering of prescription drugs, Delaware's Prescription Drug Action Committee (PDAC) has worked to decrease doctor shopping and the prescribing of controlled substances. Practitioners with controlled substance licenses now are required to register for access to the Prescription Monitoring Program, implemented by the Department of State. Health care providers have more pain management training opportunities. Read the PDAC's final recommendations at http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/files/pdacfinalreport2013.pdf.

During Drug Take-Back Day, Delawareans are asked to dispose of unwanted medicines from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 26, at 31 collection sites across the state. (List below.) Identification is not required at the free collection sites, and no questions will be asked.

Since the first statewide Drug Take-Back event held in May 2010, Delaware's eight collection days, have removed a total of 33,592 pounds of medicines from circulation. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) sponsors the National Drug Take-Back days.

The April 26 Drug Take-Back Day collection sites will accept prescription and over-the-counter pills, liquids, and cream medications, and even pet medications. Injectables and aerosols are not included in the program, and will not be accepted. Personal information should be removed from bottles and packages. More details are available at DelawareHealthyHomes.org or by calling (800) 882-9539.

The Drug Take-Back Day collection sites, operating from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. are:

New Castle County:



Delaware's Drug Take-Back Day totals:

Event date # Pounds
May 14, 2010May 14, 2010 1,680 lbs.
April 30, 2011 4,395 lbs.
October 29, 2011 4,465 lbs.
April 28, 2012 6,808 lbs.
September 29, 2012 4,561 lbs.
April 27, 2013 6,122 lbs.
October 26, 2013 5,258 lbs.
TOTAL 33,592 lbs.

Source: Delaware Division of Public Health, Office of Healthy Environments

For more information, go to www.delawarehealthyhomes.org or call (800) 882-9539.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.