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Murkowski Fighting Military Suicide by Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse

With Suicides Now Averaging One Every Eighteen Hours, Senator Co-Sponsors Legislation to Allow for Take-Back of Prescription Drugs

WASHINGTON, DC—Senator Lisa Murkowski joined a bipartisan group of her Senate colleagues as an original co-sponsor of legislation aiming to address the issue of prescription drug abuse among our nation’s veterans, and as a way to stem the military’s suicide epidemic.  The Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act would open up a drug “take-back” program through the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs similar to that available to millions of Americans through the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The DEA currently authorizes retail pharmacies to collect controlled substances through civilian drug-take back programs for safe disposal.  Thus far, the DEA has failed to work with the DoD and VA to provide our nation’s servicemembers and veterans with reasonable access to appropriate mechanisms for the safe return and disposal of prescription medications. The Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act would direct the Attorney General to establish drug take-back programs in coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

“America lost more veterans to suicide than we did in Afghanistan last year – 65% of which involved the use of drugs – and this is a preventable epidemic we must take every action possible to counter,” said Senator Murkowski.  “The VA has acknowledged that overmedicating our veterans is doing them a disservice by not allowing them to fully heal and can lead to counterproductive thoughts and behaviors.  Giving our men and women in uniform an avenue to return unneeded and dangerous drugs removes a threat from their own medicine cabinets.”

In a January 2012 report, “Army 2020: Generating Health and Discipline in the Force,” the Army found that 29 percent of suicides involved individuals with a known history of psychotropic medication use, including anti-depressants, and pain medicine, such as opioids.  The report recommended the establishment of a military drug take-back program to help combat prescription drug misuse or abuse in the ranks.   Astoundingly, the number of reported suicide deaths among servicemembers has reached one every eighteen hours.

The Servicemembers and Veterans Prescription Drug Safety Act was introduced today by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Senator Murkowski joined them as an original co-sponsor of their effort.

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