The stereotype of who can develop a substance disorder has changed. Drug addictions now come in the form of a bottle in the medicine cabinet, not just a baggie off the street.
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 more than 900,000 pounds of unused pills. These pills are not simply taking up space in our medicine cabinets. These pills can kill.
Last year more than 64,000 Americans died from a drug overdose. At almost 174 people each day, this is more than the number of Americans who died in a car accident or a gun-related homicide.
Research shows that nearly half of all people who are misusing opioids such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxycontin and Vicodin, got that pill from friends or family.
Opioids are highly effective painkillers with legitimate medical uses. However, with their efficacy, opioids are also highly addictive and have become a frequent gateway to substance abuse, with users often transitioning from prescription medications to illicit and deadly drugs such as heroin.
The opioid crisis has hit rural America especially hard where workers tend to have higher injury rates with many jobs requiring physical labor and involving more risk.
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. With these numbers, the opioid crisis is threatening the quality of life and economic opportunity in many rural communities. This epidemic is impacting worker productivity, increasing health care demands, and putting substantial stress on limited emergency response, law enforcement, and social service resources.
Further, 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. In rural America, a solution will also mean all hands on deck, from the business sector to churches, 4-H clubs, and the local school system.
This Saturday, 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.
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.
About the Author
Timothy F. Helmbrecht is the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Acting State Director in Iowa. USDA’s Rural Development mission area provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov/ia.