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DEA launches effort to collect unused painkillers

The Obama administration issued regulations Monday designating drug manufacturers, hospitals and medical clinics among a new class of “authorized collectors” of unused and controlled substances.

The initiative, announced by Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderNoisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Georgia gubernatorial candidate calls Holder comments on kicking Republicans ‘hyperbole’ Sanders weighs in on aggressiveness of Democratic protests: 'I am not a great fan of being rude or disrupting activities' MORE, is part of the administration’s effort to combat a scourge of prescription drug abuse blamed for tens of thousands of deaths each year.

“Every day, this crisis touches — and devastates — the lives of Americans from every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life,” Holder said. “Through new DEA regulations, patients will be allowed to more easily join the fight against prescription drug abuse by dropping off their leftover medications at pharmacies, hospitals, clinics, and other ‘authorized collectors.’ ”  

A final Drug Enforcement Administration rule to be published in Tuesday’s edition of the Federal Register affirms the law enforcement’s authority to maintain drug collection receptacles and conduct drug “take back” events around the country.

For the first time, certain hospitals, clinics, manufacturers, distributors, narcotic treatment programs and pharmacies will also be authorized to maintain receptacles and hold drug-mail-back campaigns.

Roughly 41,300 people died from drug overdoses in 2011, with more than half of the deaths linked to prescription drugs, federal data shows. About 17,000 of the deaths involve opioid painkillers, such as Vicodin or OxyContin.

The drugs are seen as a gateway to heroin use and are commonly abused by teens, officials said. Nearly 4 in 10 teens who have abused a prescription drug have obtained it from their parents’ medicine cabinet, according to the statistics.
 
“We know that if we remove unused painkillers from the home, we can prevent misuse and dependence from ever taking hold,” said Michael Botticelli, acting Director of National Drug Control Policy.

The regulations will take effect in 30 days and come on the heels of the Justice Department’s decision last month to elevate certain painkillers containing the opioid hydrocodone as Schedule II drugs under the Controlled Substance Act.

The action tightens the government’s regulatory control over the drugs and boost criminal penalties for anyone caught illegally dealing or possessing them.