Got Drugs?

Prescription drug abuse is a major epidemic in San Diego and across the country. Hoping to reduce the potential for abuse, the County will once again participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

On Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., County residents will be able to prevent pill abuse and water pollution by dropping off their unused prescription medications at dozens of sites throughout the region. A location near you can be found here. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.

“The Take-Back Day events provide a safe and secure way for County residents to properly dispose of their unused prescription drugs,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, County Board of Supervisors and Founder of the Prescription Drug Task Force. “Medicines stored at home in medicine cabinets increase the potential for misuse and abuse. Additionally, expired prescriptions can be dangerous.”

According to the DEA, rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high. More Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined. Studies also show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that prescription drugs should not be flushed down the toilet unless the manufacturer specifically instructs you to do so as this would help to avoid water pollution. The FDA also indicates that if prescription drugs are thrown in the household trash, consumers should take certain precautions before tossing them out.

This will be the fourth time the DEA and its 4,000-plus law enforcement partners will collect unused prescription drugs in the region and the nation. Three previous national Take-Back Days turned in nearly a million pounds—almost 500 tons—of prescription drugs at more than 5,300 sites.

Locally the Task Force has collected thousands of pounds of unused medications during take-back events. Additionally, 24 permanent secure drop-off boxes have been established throughout the county. A list of the permanent prescription drug drop-off sites can be found here.

“Prescription drugs can be highly addictive and abusing them destroys families, and can disable or kill people caught in their grip,” said Nick Macchione, director of the County’s Health and Human Services Agency, which is spearheading Live Well, San Diego! initiative, a 10-year plan to improve the health of local residents, including substance abuse prevention and treatment.

Every day 2,500 American youth, ages 12-17, abuse prescription drugs for the first time. Prescription drugs—pain relievers, tranquilizers, sedatives and stimulants—are the drugs most often abused by teens after marijuana. Misuse of prescription drugs increases as teens grow older, according to U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Furthermore, 31 percent of teens and 40 percent of adults arrested in San Diego County have misused prescription drugs in the past, according to a recent SANDAG study of people arrested in 2010. The three most frequently abused prescription drugs were Vicodin, followed by tranquilizers, and OxyContin.

OxyContin is particularly troublesome because it is highly addictive and when the abuser can no longer afford it—an OxyContin tablet can cost as much as $80 on the streets—abusers turn to heroin, which is cheaper.

In the last five years, the number of heroin addicts at County-funded treatment centers increased by 57 percent. Heroin abuse skyrocketed – especially among people between 18 and 25 – a whopping 229 percent increase.

Parents who believe their child might have a drug problem and adults with substance abuse issues should call the County’s Access and Crisis Line at (888) 724-7240 to get help. They may also call the Prescription Drug Task Force at (888) 662-6384.