WASHINGTON — A bill introduced Tuesday in the House calls on federal agencies to examine ways that consumers might dispose of unwanted prescription drugs to keep them out of the hands of addicts or children.
Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., sponsored the bill requiring studies of "take-back" programs, which allow patients to return unused medications to pharmacies for disposal.
"Prescription drugs have created a unique challenge in our war on drugs," Porter said in a statement.
"These drugs are accessible and abused. My legislation will help lead to a pragmatic solution that will enable consumers to return their unused drugs and ensure they do not unintentionally reach a potential abuser."
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy issued guidelines in February advising households to remove unwanted prescription drugs from their original containers, mix them with substances such as coffee grounds or kitty litter and put them in nondescript containers.
Patients should flush unused drugs down the toilet only if instructed to do so, according to the guidelines.
The guidelines aim to keep prescription drugs out of the hands of children and render them unusable to addicts.
At least nine states have started take-back programs, the drug control office said. Some of the states allow the medications to be reused while the rest dispose of the returned drugs.
Nevada does not have a prescription drug take-back effort.
The federal office has said failure to dispose of excess prescription drugs properly has contributed to a 40 percent increase in drug abuse among teens since 2002. Abuse has risen 17 percent among 18- to 25-year-olds from 2002 to 2005.
Nearly 60 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs have said they received them from a friend or relative for free, said Heather Janik, spokeswoman for the drug control office.
"That’s why we say it’s so important to keep control of your drugs," Janik said. "Keep count of how many you have and purge your medicine cabinets when you’re done using them."
Mary Leonard, director of Mesa Family Counseling in Las Vegas, which provides substance abuse treatment, said she can see how improper disposal of prescription drugs could lead to abuse.
But Leonard said she is unaware of how often that happens or how big of a problem that is.
"I’ve never experienced that with my clientele," Leonard said. "But I hear that that happens."
Leonard said she is more familiar with cases involving prescription drug abusers visiting more than one doctor to fill the same prescription or involving an addict abusing a spouse’s medication.