State attorney general, local San Jose officials discuss prescription drug use and disposal

Nearly two weeks ahead of National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, California’s attorney general visited the South Bay to talk about efforts to prevent drug addiction and overdose from prescription medications. 

In San Jose City Hall, there was a curious sight. State Attorney General Xavier Becerra, along with city and county leaders, all on the same page as President Trump on the narrow issue of prescription drug abuse and overdose.

The attorney general said it’s a no brainer.

“We in law enforcement cannot simply arrest our way out of this crisis,” said Becerra.

The crisis of opioid addiction prompted the White House last year to declare a public health emergency. According to federal government statistics, in 2016, upwards of 64,000 people died to opioid-related overdoses. San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo said three-quarters of addictions begin when people use medicine not prescribed for them.

“It’s critical for us to spread the word to make sure we’re safely disposing of all drugs. Whether they are in the nature of opioids, or less serious or less threatening drugs, but, in fact may have considerable impact on our environment and our public health,” said Liccardo.

Liccardo and other leaders point to the Santa Clara County program “Don’t Rush To Flush,” which dissuades people flushing expired or extra prescription drugs down the toilet or leaving those drugs in medicine cabinets where they can be abused. 

Instead, officials tout the county’s new safe drug disposal ordinance, requiring drug companies to provide safe drop sites at pharmacies and at some government offices.

“These were the companies that were profiting from these drugs. And we felt they were the people that then had to pay for the unwanted drugs,” said Santa Clara County 4th District Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Officials said that annually thousands of pounds of expired prescription drugs – that could have been abused or sold on the black market – have been taken out of the pipeline. The San Jose police chief said that helps prevent criminal tentacles from taking root. 

“We need to be responsible now so hopefully we don’t see that occur in this area,” said Eddie Garcia.

This reminder comes almost two weeks ahead of the national effort to curtail prescription drug abuse. Becerra said it’s a message that can’t get too much attention.

Beccerra said a multi-state investigation he launched last year into opioid manufacturers now touches distributors and sellers. He’s crafting a comprehensive approach to increase responsibility and reduce addictions and overdose deaths.