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President Donald Trump recently declared the opioid epidemic a national state of emergency and has called on tasks forces, law enforcement agencies, and community members to actively participate in the removal of highly-addictive narcotics from the streets. As I’ve written about before on this blog, the science behind prescribing pain-killers has come a long way, especially with the recent discoveries of genes and pain tolerance. Scientists have discovered a family of genes that directly influences the perception of pain, and thus helps inform a doctor’s decision of what to prescribe to properly treat pain.

However, it happens with some frequency that patients don’t finish entire prescription bottles of heavy-duty drugs and let them sit in medicine cabinets. In time, these drugs get “lost” and find their way to the black market, where addicts fork over all kinds of money for a fix. Even those who attempted to be responsible with the drugs they were prescribed can inadvertently contribute to the epidemic.

The medical community is working in tandem with the legal community to combat the overprescription of opioids such as oxycontin. In the early 2000s, there were few and loosely-enforced restrictions as to appropriate opioid prescriptions, and pill mills popped up all over Florida and Appalachia. Today, laws are much stricter, and doctors are held accountable and liable if negligent prescriptions lead to addictions.

By the same token, communities that have blighted by overdoses and addictions have called for action on the consumer side. Drug Take Back nights offer citizens opportunities to surrender prescription opioids that they no longer need but don’t want to wind up in the wrong hands. This past October, hundreds of cities hosted drug take back nights to restrict the supply of drugs to the black market, and in some cities, officials collected hundreds of pounds worth of drugs. In Cocoa, Florida, for example, officers received over 300 pounds of unused drugs.

Ending the opioid epidemic is up to all of us. Encourage your friends and family members to turn in unused prescriptions and keep them out of the wrong hands.