Senator Umberg Introduces Legislation to Reduce Opioid Pilfering and Abuse

February 19, 2020

SB 1084

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 19, 2020
CONTACT:, (916) 651-4034

(Sacramento, CA) – Today, Senator Thomas J. Umberg (D-Santa Ana) will introduce Senate Bill 1084, the California Safe Dispensing Act, a measure to eliminate opioid pilfering – a powerful on ramp to the nation’s current opioid addiction crisis.  

“As President Clinton’s Deputy Drug Czar, I am intimately familiar with the statistics, stories, and policy quandaries surrounding the nation’s opioid and drug epidemics,” noted Senator Umberg.  “It’s time we do more to protect California families from this danger and hold opioid manufacturers accountable for their part in this crisis.”   

Pilfering, the act of sneaking a small number of pills hoping that it will go undetected, is the leading source of youth opioid abuse.  Studies show that each year nearly 600,000 children from across the country between the ages of 12 and 17 initiate prescription drug abuse by pilfering medication from an adult in their home.  

Nearly 5,000 children younger than 6 years old are evaluated annually in emergency departments for opioid exposures. According to national studies, nearly 9,000 children and adolescents died between 1999 and 2016 from prescription and illicit opioid poisonings – an increased mortality rate of 268%.

"Making containers tamper-proof gives parents a new tool in protecting young people in their families,” said Pete Nielsen, Chief Executive Officer of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals. “Most parents don't suspect that their children may be accessing dangerous pharmaceuticals in their own medicine cabinets. This bill will greatly reduce access to unused medication and can save California families from the tragedies of overdose we see in the treatment industry every day."

The ineffective and outdated child-resistant prescription vials currently in use have not been modified in nearly 50 years.  When the Federal Poison Prevention Packaging Act was enacted in 1970, the goal was to prevent children under age 5 from gaining access to aspirin.  Today, those same “child locks” are used on everything from cough medicine to prescription pain management medications that are 80 times stronger than morphine.  

SB 1084 would require a pharmacist who dispenses a controlled substance, as defined by Schedules II and IIN of the Federal Controlled Substances Act, to dispense it with a lockable vial. As written, SB 1084 would apply specifically to prescriptions of narcotic painkillers including oxycodone, methadone, fentanyl, amphetamines, benzodiazepines, morphine, and codeine.   

“Preventing addiction is an urgent part of saving lives as we attack the opioid crisis that kills tens of thousands of people per year nationwide,” said Kevin Roy, Chief Public Policy Officer for Shatterproof.  “We should all welcome common-sense solutions to reduce the diversion of prescribed medications, especially when young people are involved.”

Leading public health organizations have called for improved packaging of opioids and other addictive medication for several years.  Requiring locking prescription vials for powerful narcotics is a low-cost way for California to modernize the antiquated federal laws that are partially responsible for causing this nationwide epidemic.

SB 1084 will likely be heard in in the California State Senate in mid/late March. You can read more about the bill here.


Senator Thomas J. Umberg represents the 34th Senate District, which includes the cities of Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Long Beach,
Los Alamitos, Midway City, Orange, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, and Westminster.
Umberg is a retired U.S. Army Colonel, former federal prosecutor, former
Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and small businessman.
He and his wife, Brigadier General Robin Umberg, USA (ret.), live in Orange County.