Monday, September 24, 2012

Grissom: Kansans need to fight prescription drug abuse

U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom today called on parents, teachers and all Kansans to join him in the fight against America’s fastest growing drug problem – prescription drug abuse.

“Every day, 2,500 American teens are using a prescription drug to get high for the first time,” Grissom said during a press conference to kick off a national week of activities tied to the launch of The Medicine Abuse Project, a drive to raise public awareness of prescription drug abuse. “More Americans are dying from drug overdoses each year than the number who are killed in auto accidents.”

Grissom cited what he called an alarming series of statistics revealing that prescription drug abuse is growing rapidly.
  • Every 19 minutes one person dies from a drug overdose in the United States.
  • The death toll from prescription painkillers has tripled in the past decade.
  • Emergency room visits involving the abuse of prescription drugs more than doubled from 2004 to 2010.
Grissom said he is joining U.S. Attorneys across the nation to support the Partnership at’s goal of preventing half a million teens from abusing prescription drugs over the next five years.

He urged parents, teachers, community leaders, health care providers and law enforcement officers to visit to learn about ways to join the fight. It is no coincidence, he said, that the campaign is being launched at this time.

“The beginning of a new school year is a time filled with opportunity and excitement,” he said. “It’s also time for parents and others to think about the dangers facing our children."

In Kansas, Grissom said, federal prosecutors are seeing startling examples of the prescription drug abuse problem:
  • In U.S. v Dr. Stephen Schneider, a Haysville physician was sentenced in 2010 to 30 years in prison. During trial, prosecutors presented evidence Schneider illegally prescribed controlled substances to dozens of patients who were addicted to the pain killers, resulting in deaths and overdoses.
  • In U.S. v Verdale Handy, investigators uncovered a heroin trafficking organization that sold to users in Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Franklin counties. At trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Handy’s organization catered to teens and young adults who first became addicted to the prescription pain killer oxycodone and then graduated to heroin.
  • In U.S. v Katherine Surowski, a Salina pharmacist was sentenced to four years in federal prison after she admitted helping her sister and another woman forge prescriptions for oxycodone and oxycontin.
Parents can take a significant step by talking to teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, Grissom said.

“Experts tell us that kids who learn about the risks of drugs at home are 50 percent less likely to use them,” he said.

He also urged Kansas to take part in National Drug Take Back Day. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, law enforcement agencies across Kansas and throughout the nation will be accepting unused prescription drugs for safe disposal.

In the Wichita area, for instance, the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office, will be operating three drop off sites that day:
  • The Sedgwick County Zoo, 5500 Zoo Boulevard in Wichita.
  • The Sedgwick County’s household hazardous waste collection site at 801 Stillwell in Wichita.
  • The Oaklawn Activity Center, 4900 S. Clifton.
The Drug Take Back Day is sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration. At the most recent Drug Take Back Day in April, Kansans collected 8,753 pounds of drugs, Grissom said.

To find the nearest drop off site anywhere in Kansas, visit and click on “Got Drugs?”