In 2017, the State of Wisconsin lost 827 people to the opioid epidemic. Last year, over 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. In Wisconsin, local, state and county officials are also combating methamphetamine, heroin and other substance abuse deaths. Each person who died was someone’s mother or father, son or daughter, brother or sister. Many of these mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were also part of rural America.
Today, in the midst of this nationwide epidemic, small towns and rural places from across America have been particularly impacted by opioid misuse. Opioids are highly effective painkillers with legitimate medical uses but they are also highly addictive by becoming a gateway to substance abuse, with users often transitioning from prescription medications to deadly drugs such as heroin.
Last fall, two leading farm organizations released a survey which found that nearly 50 percent of rural Americans have been directly impacted by opioid abuse. This epidemic is impacting worker productivity, increasing health care demands and putting substantial stress on limited emergency response, law enforcement and social service resources. Furthermore, this issue is also making economic development even more difficult for small towns that are already operating on slim budgets and struggling to attract new business.
An effective solution to this crisis will take leadership, collaboration and creativity from a broad range of partners at the Federal, state and local level. This Saturday, April 28th, each of us can take a simple but important step forward to protect our family, our friends and our community by participating in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.
From high school sports injuries to a routine dental procedure or recurring back pain, many of us have left over prescription drugs. Last fall, the biannual Take Back Day collected over 66,000 pounds of unused pills in Wisconsin and over 900,000 pounds nationwide. Sitting in medicine cabinets, these pills aren’t simply taking up space… these pills can kill. Research shows that nearly half of all people who are misusing opioids got that pill from friends or family - not from a dealer on the street.
Visit https://takebackday.dea.gov/ for more information about the dangers of unused prescription drugs and to locate a safe collection site near you. With this small action, each of us can take an important step forward in guarding our loved ones and the towns we love and call home from the tragic path of addiction.