By Paul Henry / in , , , /

The President: Hi, everybody. Today, September 26th, is
“National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.” It’s a day where you can
safely, conveniently, and responsibly dispose
of expired and unwanted prescription drugs
at collection sites in your community. Here’s why this matters. More Americans now die every
year from drug overdoses than they do in car crashes. And most of those deaths
aren’t due to drugs like cocaine or heroin – but
rather prescription drugs. In 2013 alone, overdoses
from prescription pain medications killed more
than 16,000 Americans. And most young people who begin
misusing prescription drugs don’t buy them in some
dark alley – they get them from the medicine cabinet. If that’s not a good enough
reason to participate in “National Prescription Drug
Take-Back Day,” here’s another. Many prescription pain
medications belong to the same class
of drugs as heroin. In fact, four in five heroin
users started out by misusing prescription drugs. And over the course of just one
year, between 2013 and 2014, we saw a 33% increase in
the number of heroin users. All of this takes a terrible
toll on too many families, in too many communities, all
across the country – big and small, urban and rural. It strains law enforcement
and treatment programs. It costs all of us – in
so many different ways. That’s why, four years ago,
my Administration unveiled a Prescription Drug
Abuse Prevention Plan. We’ve been partnering with
communities to combat overdoses, and we’re seeing
some promising results. That’s why the budget I put
forward this year would build on those efforts. It would make critical
investments in things like drug monitoring programs,
equipping more first responders to save more lives, and
expanding medication-assisted treatment programs –
including in our prisons. In fact, getting smarter about
how we address substance use disorders is a vital
part of reforming our criminal justice system. Rather than keep spending
billions of taxpayer dollars on needlessly
long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, we could save money and
get better outcomes by getting treatment
to those who need it. And we could use some of the
savings to make sure the brave men and women of law
enforcement have the resources they need to go after drug
kingpins and violent gangs, disrupt the flow of
drugs into our country, and address the real
threats to our communities. With no other disease do
we expect people to wait until they’re a
danger to themselves or others to self-diagnose
and seek treatment. So we should approach abuse as
an opportunity to intervene, not incarcerate. And we all have a
role to play here. Parents, we have to
understand how important it is to talk to our
kids, and to safely store medications
in the house. The medical community
has to be engaged, too – because better
prescribing practices will make a difference. And as a country, we have to
keep working to reduce drug use through evidence-based
treatment, prevention, and recovery. Because research
shows it works. Courageous Americans
show it works, every day. That’s why the man I named to
head the office of National Drug Control Policy –
Michael Botticelli – is a man in long-term
recovery himself. He talks about it
openly and honestly, precisely to strike down the
shame and stigma that too often keep people from seeking
care before it’s too late. This is something I’ll
be talking about more in the weeks to come, in
communities across the country. Because it’s a challenge we
can solve if we work together. Thanks, and have
a great weekend.

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