Some sobering drug statistics
IN THE CITY
The men and women of the Presque Isle Police Department continue to face challenging circumstances related to drug addiction and the associated crime.
The good news is MDEA has done a terrific job disrupting several drug operations in northern Maine, which has substantially impacted the drug flow to Presque Isle. The bad news is that when one source becomes unavailable, another pops up to fill the gap; when one drug of choice becomes unavailable, another drug is substituted and so the story goes!
Recently, the National Drug Take-Back program concluded its ninth collection in four and one-half years. This is the interesting part (get ready for some math!) … During the first seven collections nationwide, the U.S. DEA collected approximately 4,206,101 pounds of discarded prescription drugs. I couldn’t find the numbers for the last two collection days but if you average the previous seven, the total for all nine collections is about 5,407,844 pounds of unwanted or unneeded prescription drugs. When averaged among all 50 states, DEA collected about 108,156 pounds per state.
As you may know the State of Maine is ranked in the 41st position for most populated states in the U.S., meaning only nine states have less people than Maine. Interestingly enough, during the most recent collection this fall, Mainers turned in about 19,060 pounds of prescription drugs. Because this was the last currently scheduled collection, a grand total of Maine’s prescription drug collection was provided for all nine collection dates … drum roll please … the State of Maine contributed 152,720 pounds over the course of the nine collection dates … remember the number above, the average of all 50 states is 108,156 pounds! Combined with our State’s small population, any, even remotely, curious person has to ask … how is this possible? How are so many prescription drugs provided to such a small population?
Some other interesting numbers available, through the first six collections:
• Maine ranked number 1 in the U.S. per capita for the largest collection based on poundage; I couldn’t find the rankings for the last three collections but I bet it didn’t change much.
• The last four of the first six collections, Maine had the largest collection by total weight in New England — remember Massachusetts has five times the population of Maine!
At the risk of stating the obvious, my opinion is there can be no other answer except that medical providers in this State are dispensing medications like candy. I can’t imagine providers would intentionally over-prescribe controlled substances which causes me to believe there must be a lack of awareness or training on the matter. Until the over-prescribing is substantially reduced, Mainers can not reasonably expect the drug abuse problem to recede.
As we all know, there are some prescription drugs that are as valuable on the streets as any heroin, cocaine, meth, or bath salts. Law enforcement agencies take many reports regarding theft of drugs from residences; pharmacies are being robbed up and down the State; fraudulent prescriptions are being written all over; and the diversion of controlled substances is huge nationwide. Imagine how bad the problem truly is when the public is being lawfully prescribed such unnecessarily large quantities of drugs. Remember, these are numbers and amounts we know of because they are returned … what volume of drugs can’t we account for?
This is a real problem that needs to be addressed by the medical providers, the legislature, and the public.
Chief Matthew J. Irwin of the Presque Isle Police Department can be reached at 764-2535 or via email at email@example.com.