Supporting patients who have pain, particularly those who treat pain with prescription pain medications, is an important form of diversion control. However, there are additional ways to prevent diversion in communities. The majority of prescription pain medication used by individuals without a doctor’s prescription come from legitimate prescriptions written for someone known to them.
Because the way people get prescription medications is different than illicit drugs, i.e. from a friend or family member vs. from a drug dealer or on the black market, the strategies for preventing access to prescription medications must also be different. There are several main strategies, most of which require the involvement of law enforcement. One strategy is to reduce the overall supply of unused prescription medications available in communities for potential misuse, diversion, or overdose. Many people have medicine cabinets full of expired or unused prescriptions. Helping people to dispose of these medications in ways that are not harmful to the environment is a crucial piece of diversion control. For those controlled substances that need to remain in the home, locked storage containers can be made available and promoted. Another main strategy is to support capacity building among state and local law enforcement to identify, investigate, and prosecute illegal diversion activities. Promoting networking between law enforcement and local behavioral health and/or substance abuse treatment services is also an important strategy.
Communities, law enforcement agencies, and health care professionals are constantly developing new and creative ways to ensure that prescription medications are used only by the person they are prescribed for and to minimize diversion. The following is a list of some of the activities that have been successfully implemented:
Unused medication take-back events by sheriff and police departments, with support from
DEA and State Bureau of Investigation. Operation Medicine Drop is an excellent resource
for supporting local communities in sponsoring these events.
Fixed medicine disposal sites at law enforcement offices.
Project Pill Drop, supplying county law enforcement agencies, clinics, and pharmacies with
permanent take back dropboxes.
Hiring and training drug diversion specialized law enforcement officers.
Encouraging the use of locked storage for controlled substances in the home.