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Rockefeller praises DEA for permanent drug disposal plan

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., praised the federal Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday for implementing a permanent drug disposal plan to help prevent prescription drug abuse.

In recent years, Rockefeller held several hearings and introduced various pieces of legislation to help control and prevent the abuse of pharmaceutical drugs that medical professionals prescribe for their patients.

Last month, Rockefeller introduced new legislation to control prescription drug abuse.

"West Virginia faces a troubling prescription drug abuse problem that is fueled in part by excess prescription drugs left in medicine cabinets and household drawers.

"We've made strides with nationwide Drug Take-Back Days, but we need a permanent solution for the safe disposal of prescription drugs," Rockefeller said.

"Providing a national standard and clear process for safe disposal will help us address the drug abuse epidemic head-on in both the country and our state." 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified prescription drug abuse as a nationwide epidemic.

"West Virginia has been especially hard hit," Rockefeller wrote in a Nov. 5 letter to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart.

"Between 2001 and 2008, more than nine out of 10 drug-related deaths in West Virginia involved prescription drugs. From 1999 to 2004, there was a 550 percent increase in deaths from prescription drug overdose in the state," Rockefeller wrote.

Today, West Virginia ranks second in the nation in the rate of deaths from prescription drug overdoses, especially opioid painkillers.

The DEA also wants to enforce rules it created to dispose of prescription drugs safely, including mail-back programs and setting up local events to recover unused controlled substances.

In August, Rockefeller added four Northern Panhandle counties -- Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, and Marshall -- to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program. That makes them eligible for additional federal funds to fight prescription drug abuse and trafficking.

Rockefeller also has secured federal funds for programs to hire and train police officers, to provide additional services for at-risk young people and to educate physicians and patients.

He also supports monitoring programs to prevent "doctor shopping" and buying prescription drugs across state lines.

Rockefeller also got the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to conduct a continuing medical education course about prescribing opioids at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg on Sept. 28.

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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