Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, weighed in today following an incident Tuesday at Mountain View Middle School in which nine students were taken to the hospital for taking prescription pills.
“This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home,” Inslee said in a release. “Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.”
The timing of the incident coincides with the passage of the Safe Drug Disposal Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill aimed at allowing for prescription pill disposal sites without police involvement — which is currently illegal under federal law.
Inslee is a sponsor of the bill.
This is an alarm our newspaper first sounded in 2008 in a project called “A Bitter Pill.”
Here’s the full press release from Inslee’s office:
“This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Jay Inslee’s (WA-01) Safe Drug Disposal Act, H.R. 5809, by unanimous consent. This important bipartisan legislation will break down barriers preventing communities from starting comprehensive and all inclusive drug take-back programs in accordance with Drug Enforcement Agency guidelines. Drug take-back programs provide communities with a safe, legal option for disposing unwanted or unneeded prescription medication.
“Passing the Safe Drug Disposal Act is a big win for Washington families,” said Rep. Inslee. “Prescription drug abuse is a growing plague in our communities. This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home. Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem. The Safe Drug Disposal Act will give them a common sense option to easily and safely get rid of leftover prescription medication.”
Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in Washington state and around the country. Between 1999 and 2006, the number of fatal poisonings involving prescription drugs more than tripled across the United States. Prescription drug overdoses have now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington state. Three in five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets and over half of prescription drug abusers get the medicines from a friend or relative.
“Drug overdoses are now the #1 cause of accidental death in Washington State.
In many areas, including Snohomish County, prescription drugs are involved in a majority of overdoses,” said John Gahagan, Vice-Chair of the Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation. Mr. Gahagan’s son, Sean, died of a prescription drug overdose. “Whether left unused in medicine cabinets, tossed in the garbage or flushed down the toilet, these drugs represent a danger to the health of our youth and the health of our environment. Rep. Inslee’s bill is a critical step in support of efforts to ensure that unneeded controlled substances are securely collected from homes and disposed of safely.”
The Safe Drug Disposal Act would allow local agencies and organizations to set-up and run safe drug disposal efforts, like drop-off boxes and mail-in programs, in accordance with future DEA regulations. Groups, authorized by the Attorney General would be able to accept controlled substances for the purpose of disposal. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would be able to issue rules regarding drug take back programs. The bill also calls for a new public awareness campaign to educate citizens about the dangers of prescription drugs.
Until now, there has been no safe way for consumers to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. Under current law, consumers are prohibited from giving unneeded, unused or expired drugs to anyone besides law enforcement.
Rep. Inslee worked with many local, regional and national organizations to craft the language of the Safe Drug Disposal Act. In Washington state, local agencies and community groups like Group Health and Bartell Drugs have tackled this problem head-on and developed successful pilot safe drug disposal programs. Bartell Drugs provided the first take-back locations in Washington’s pioneering Unwanted Medicine Return program and continues to expand locations at its stores in King , Pierce and Snohomish counties.
“Bartell’s understands the need for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of prescription drugs,” said George D. Bartell, Chairman and CEO of family-owned, Seattle-based Bartell Drugs. “The Safe Drug Disposal Act will play an important role in safeguarding our environment, reducing abuse and saving lives. We heartily applaud Representative Inslee’s efforts behind this bill.”