According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, emergency room visits related to prescription drug-related illnesses have exceeded those related to illicit drugs for three consecutive years. In 2009, 1.2 million patients were taken to an emergency room for pharmaceutical drug use - a number nearly double the number seen in 2004, which was 627,000.
The DEA and other agencies are utilizing events like the National Take Back Initiative as they work their way toward eliminating illegal prescription drug use, said Burns.
"We don't want to just arrest our way out of this problem," he said.
Lt. Chuck Potthast, with the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation, agreed. Potthast said he would rather see the problem stopped at its source, by finding ways to keep the drugs out of the hands of drug abusers in the first place.
"It's a huge percentage of the illicit drugs and illegal drugs that are out there," Potthast said of prescription drugs. "We all realize it's a problem. And, I think we're all attacking it with the weapons that we have."
Potthast said he has also dealt with cases of Medicaid fraud where those on assistance have either given or sold their prescription drugs. That's something that can lead to serious legal action and something that could even be worse for the persons receiving benefits.
"People out there, in that regard, who are selling their medication, should be very leery that there may be repercussions here as far as what's going to happen with their benefits," he said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Horsman said it's important the agencies investigate all avenues of getting all forms of drugs off the streets and out of the hands of those who abuse them.
"We're looking to see whatever we can do individually in our agencies as well as what we can do as prosecutors, law enforcement, to address this problem," said Horsman.