Highlight on North Dakota: State Incinerated 3.3 Tons of Prescription Drugs

North Dakota has destroyed 3.3 tons of unused medications since the state’s Prescription Drug Take Back Program (Take Back Program) was launched in 2009. Further, over the last five months alone, more than 1,000 pounds of OxyContin, Fentanyl, Prozac, and other controlled drugs were collected and incinerated by the state. According to North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, North Dakota was the first state that offered a year-round state-wide prescription drug disposal program.

“Public support for this program has been overwhelming,” stated Attorney General Stenehjem in a press release. “Not only are we keeping these medications from being sold to our kids, but by disposing of the drugs properly instead of flushing them or putting them in the trash, we are protecting the state’s resources from potential contamination.”

North Dakota’s Take Back Program provides unwanted medication disposal containers at 34 locations across the state. This includes police departments and sheriff’s offices across 30 counties and allows the program to reach over 90 percent of the state’s population.

According to Stenehjem, “Reducing access will reduce abuse,” reported The Bismarck Tribune, which “is a very serious and growing problem nationally just as it is in North Dakota.” Specifically, he noted that prescription drugs are the “third-most abused drug in North Dakota, behind alcohol and marijuana,” according to the report. In addition, a recent survey found that 18 percent of high school students in North Dakota have abused prescription drugs one or more times.

”Where do they get them? Usually from family members and friends,” stated Stenehjem. “Where do they find them? Medicine cabinets, night stands and anywhere else medicines are stored.” Consequently, officials have been working with funeral homes and real estate companies to fight prescription drug abuse. “We’ve alerted funeral directors to make sure the family knows right away that one of the things on the checklist is to consider taking those medications and dropping them off at a receptacle,” stated Stenehjem. In addition, officials have asked real estate agents to not show medicine cabinets at open houses due to criminals posing as buyers.

The latest numbers show that 29 million narcotic and muscle relaxant pills were distributed in North Dakota in 2011, said Stenehjem. “That’s 43 pills for every man, woman and child in the state.”