Growing Number of States Taking Action to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse, Safely Dispose of Drugs

This post is part one of a two part series on new drug laws in the United States.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention classifies prescription drug abuse as an epidemic. Fortunately, lawmakers across the country are taking significant steps toward reducing deaths related to prescription drug and opioid abuse. Recently, the issue even brought both parties together to create the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus. South Carolina Republican Senator Tim Scott and fellow West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin reached across the aisle to form the caucus aimed at raising awareness “about helping the millions of American families whose lives have been torn apart by prescription drug abuse.”

The Boston Globe’s Jim Sullivan claims that prescription drug abuse could be the sleeper issue in the 2016 presidential election. For example, in May, Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, said he would prioritize drug addiction as one of the “five or six” chief issues of his potential presidential bid. Meanwhile, during her visit to Iowa, Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed drug abuse saying she was “now convinced” that she needed to talk about it on the trail. Time magazine took a deep dive into the topic in last week’s “Why America Can’t Kick Its Painkiller Problem” cover story, with editor Nancy Gibbs discussing the epidemic and how politicians are addressing it on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Recently, governors in New Jersey, Oklahoma and Nevada have signed legislation to combat what has become a nationwide concern. And others in states including Illinois are working to pass laws asking state agencies to administer a statewide used prescription medication take back program with local agencies and departments. Here’s a state-by-state round-up of recent legislation on the issue:


Oklahoma has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. Because of this, Gov. Mary Fallin is determined to make fighting prescription drug abuse a top priority. Last month, she signed into law a bill that requires doctors to check a prescription drug database before prescribing certain opioids and other addictive drugs. The bill, which is two years in the making, is intended to curb “doctor shopping,” where people often move from doctor to doctor to acquire prescription painkillers. The new law will take effect Nov. 1.


Last month, Gov. Chris Christie signed two pieces of legislation. One bill will expand New Jersey’s medicine drop-off program. The other authorizes the state’s attorney general to coordinate a statewide Opioid Law Enforcement Task Force. The task force will employ law enforcement efforts to identify, investigate and prosecute illegal sources and distribution of opiate drugs.


In Nevada this month, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill called the “Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act.” It would essentially reduce criminal penalties for reporting drug overdoses. The law is also anticipated to make it easier for people to access medicine – like naloxone – that can reverse potentially fatal overdoses. In addition, doctors would be required to track prescriptions more meticulously.

If the state you live in is lacking laws to curb prescription drug abuse and supporting safe, convenient deactivation and disposal of leftover medications, write to your senators and representatives encouraging them to implement legislation. Or get involved at a local level by sharing new options like the Deterra system with your local law enforcement officials.