NEW MADRID COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Figures from a new report say 110 tons of painkillers were handed out by pharmacies, hospitals, and physicians in 2010.
Exploding numbers have experts more concerned than ever about a wave of addiction that could get much worse.
Investigators in the Heartland say it's time to do something about it.
"There's been a dramatic increase in prescription drug abuse in the 12 years I've been sheriff," says New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens.
That's why Stevens says he feels it's important to personally make the rounds in New Madrid County to promote his drug take back program
His push for people to get old drugs safely out of their medicine cabinets comes on the same day a new report suggests doctor's may be writing too many prescriptions for painkillers containing Oxycodon and Hydrocodone fueling addictions.
Stevens says whatever the cause, there's no doubt in his mind prescription drug abuse is out of control, and growing into a bigger monster than meth.
"I don't think there are any boundaries to who abuses them," he said.
Drug agents say a combined 110 tons of painkillers were prescribed in 2010. That's enough to give 40 Percocet and 24 Vicodin to every man, woman, and child in the U.S. Numbers that are 16 times higher than a decade earlier.
"So many people are just after that good feeling," says Kevin Glaser, SEMO Drug Task Force Officer.
Glaser says Missouri is one of the only states without a prescription monitoring system, making it easy for abusers to bounce from doctor to doctor.
"A little closer scrutiny with patients might make a big difference," said Glaser.
He says locally, many abusers find themselves caught up in a powerful addiction with deadly consequences.
"We know of a huge number of overdoses in southeast Missouri that that's the course of death from pain killers and they go unreported," Glaser said.
Glaser says besides a monitoring system, the next step is to get the drugs out of medicine cabinets. So he applauds Stevens' efforts to get people to turn them in on March 28. They will be sending the old drugs to the incinerator, instead of to the streets.
Doctors tell Heartland News they find themselves in a tough spot when it comes to prescribing painkillers.
They have mixed feelings about whether a prescription monitoring system would work in Missouri.