DEA Administrator: Help Us Stop Prescription Drug Abuse

Michele Leonhart, DEA Administrator

All of us who are passionate about reducing drug abuse cannot ignore the growing dangers of prescription drug abuse, particularly among teens and young adults.  By preventing drug abuse where it starts, we can make a tremendous difference in the life of our nation: one community, one family and one child at a time.

 the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids has highlighted this disturbing trend with a staggering statistic from the 2010 Partnership Attitude Tracking Survey (PATS): One out of four teens has admitted to taking a prescription drug not prescribed to them.  This confirms what we see in other studies and in our drug enforcement work at DEA:  

  • More prescriptions are being written than ever before: There has been an increase of almost 50 percent in retail pharmacy prescriptions for opioids (the most frequently abused prescription drug class) in the past decade–more than a quarter billion in 2009;
  • More people are dying from prescription drugs: There has been nearly a 300 percent increase in deaths from prescription opioids in less than a decade; 
  • There has been a spike in teen abuse of prescription drugs: More teenagers are abusing prescription drugs than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine combined;

We also know where abusers are getting prescription drugs. It’s often from friends and family, particularly home medicine cabinets that provide easy access, which leads to accidents and the illegal sale of these drugs:

  • A recent survey found that over 70 percent of those who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives;
  • PATS shows nearly half of teens believe it is easy to get prescription drugs from their family’s medicine cabinet;   

We can make a difference in stopping prescription drug abuse.  It will not be easy.  It will not be quick.  But together, we can change access, attitudes and keep these drugs out of harm’s way.

One important step we can take right now is to make sure we safely and securely dispose of unused, unneeded and expired medications.  Many of you joined DEA on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day last September to do just that.  With your help, we collected over 121 tons of prescription drugs. This Saturday, April 30, we will be holding another Take-Back Day at thousands of locations across the nation.  We already have more collection sites registered than last year. Please visit to find the location nearest you.

Soon, DEA will develop regulations to implement the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010 passed last fall by Congress and signed by the President.  This will provide for a permanent solution for the safe disposal of controlled substance prescription drugs.  It will not, however, end our need to be vigilant in this fight.

I am certain that the more we can do to stop the abuse of prescription drugs, the more effective we will be in reducing the death, destruction and despair that accompanies all drug abuse.  Thank you for your partnership with DEA.

Michele M. Leonhart
DEA Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice

42 Responses

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    January 28, 2017 at 7:51 AM

    My boyfriend’s son lives with his mother in Wadena MN.We have tried several times to report her (since his child was under 5 years of age till now 12) Originally her drug of choice was Meth, now prescription pain killers like oxycodone. She has been in and out of treatment, a scare with overdose. She says her doctor is prescribing her 40mg of Valium. as well as the pain killers. His child called the other day saying he doesn’t want to be there, he doesn’t feel safe. Discussion with his mom is her panicking that without child support, SSI payments for the child. The local police give her and their son ride home from Walmart because unable to drive safely under the influence. They stop her while drugged and driving with a child, but never any charges. The doctor continues to prescribe knowing her problem. According to the mother should recently had a hip replacement because the long use of drugs has degraded the joint. The child takes care of mom and for 3 years now is failing science, history, math and English. We have tried to get him tested for learning disability but mom and school have refused. He did get a math tutor with slight improvement. They keep passing to the next grade though failing.

    The child wants OUT, is fearful of his safety, failing school,a couple of days ago she was out of it and fell spilling her pills all over the floor. He said the label said take for pain.
    The county says his father’s only right is to pay. They redid his child support 2 weeks before her SSI hearing, decided since she has no income he is 100% financially responsible for the child. She got her SSI and did not adjust his support payment.

    We have a home, he’s got his own room, clothes, etc. We want him and he wants to come here. Mom is pressuring him that she won’t survive without him.The guilt is so hard for him.

    What do you do when the county is corrupt, the system is corrupted, The police knowing allow this to continue. And the school is pushing him through the grades, failing his classes. Is their an agency that keeps the counties in check. Social services are not working in child’s best interest and will not do anything about the reports?

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    Shane c

    December 30, 2016 at 5:17 PM

    My mother in law has been abusing pain killers, how do I found out how much and for how long she has been using this drug? I believe the MD is over prescribing her and will not help or disclose. We need to know what we are dealing with snice she can’t tell the truth.

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    December 3, 2016 at 8:22 PM

    I work in a pharmacy ( retail) and there is a md that i belive and a couple of our other staff members do to think he is over writing or inappropriately writing pain meds where do i start to have him investigated?

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    November 19, 2016 at 5:58 PM

    My 16 year old son take Vyvanse for his ADHD and I know (from looking at his Facebook messages) he is selling it to other students for money to buy other drugs. I feel like taking it away from him and just giving him one pill every morning while I watched him take it. What does everything think? He will be away in college next year and of course will be free to do what he wants. From the number of people he seems to be selling it to, it seems like he hardly takes it himself.

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    November 7, 2016 at 10:47 PM

    I have just recently found out that my husband (a physician assistant) is addicted to oxycodone and has been stealing another doctor’s scrip pads to prescribe this drug under my name without me knowing. I am horrified by this, and concerned about my own safety. I currently do not have a job, and will not be able to support myself and my children if he goes to jail. I am also concerned that he will try and involve me in the crime since he used my name is on the prescription. Should I be concerned about legal ramifications for myself if I do or don’t turn him in? How can I protect myself?

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