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Our View: Help addicts resist the temptation of unused drugs

Abuse of prescription drugs is a problem in South Dakota, according to police and pharmacists, but when it comes to the evils of prescription addiction, listen to Wade Juracek. The former mayor of Gregory became addicted to Vicodin after taking painkillers to treat an inflammatory disease of the intestines. At its peak, Juracek's addiction was leading him to take up to 100 pills a day; he sometimes obtained the drugs by calling on Gregory residents for business and asking to use their restroom, where he would go through medicine cabinets. He resigned as mayor shortly after he was caught. But after being convicted last year on three felony charges, Juracek is now clean and sober and has a message to tell. "It can happen to anybody," he told The Daily Republic last week.

He lobbied in favor of legislation -- passed during this most recent session of the Legislature -- that will create a prescription-drug monitoring program. Scheduled to take effect July 1, the law will require pharmacists to submit certain information about each prescription for a controlled substance.

Next month, Juracek will speak at the South Dakota Pharmacists Association convention in Chamberlain, and he has spent time encouraging communities to install prescription drug disposal boxes where unused medication can be deposited before falling into the hands of abusers.

Juracek is a great success story. We commend him, not only for beating his habit but also for working so hard to keep others from following his unfortunate path.

Perhaps Juracek, and others like him, can help stem an increase in prescription-drug abuse that began to rise a decade ago. In 2000, the number of arrests for unauthorized possession of a controlled substance was 1,026. By 2005, that number more than doubled, to 2,589.

The numbers have shown a decrease in the years since, but we still worry that South Dakotans don't realize the problem exists and it potentially could be happening within our families.

Even here in Mitchell, theft of prescription drugs is a problem, according to police. Teens are often the culprit, and one police spokesman said he is concerned by "pill parties," where teens exchange and ingest prescription pills that they took from their family medicine cabinets.

We're pleased by the Legislature's decision to try to thwart future prescription-drug abuse. We hope the new law will prove to be a true deterrent to those who wish to illegally obtain drugs by deception of the medical community.

Yet the new law will do little to protect the medicine cabinets where many unused prescription drugs lie in wait for somebody to abuse.

We agree with Juracek. All communities should establish drug disposal boxes to reduce the threat of abuse by drugs that should no longer be available to those who cannot resist the temptation.