(Ed. Note: Bernice Koo is a pharmacy technician at the South-End Rite Aid and member of the Communities That Care (CTC) coalition. Mercer Island Patch is also a member of the CTC.)
What is the safest place to store your prescription medicine? If your answer was your medicine cabinet, you're not alone. However, most people do not realize this is the first place teens look for drugs if they have made the unfortunate decision to experiment with or misuse them.
Although prescription drug abuse is now on the decline among 18-25 year-olds, it has remained the same among youth ages 12-17 according to recent 2011 results released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. As Drug Take Back Day approaches this Saturday, what comes to mind is the easy access youth have to drugs — often right in their homes. Teens say they most often get prescription drugs from family and friends.
I am a member of the Mercer Island Communities That Care Coalition (MICTC), 24 years old, a recent UW graduate, and have lived on Mercer Island most of my life. I became interested in prescription drug abuse when I was researching doctoral programs in pharmacy and had an opportunity to drop in on a pharmacy class about drug abuse. Fortunately, on Mercer Island, prescription drug abuse among teens is relatively low. However, the rest of Washington State is not so lucky, with prescription misuse reaching epidemic proportions. In fact, Washington has one of the highest teen prescription drug abuse rates in the nation. Furthermore, accidental death due to prescription drug overdoses is now higher than fatal car collisions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one death every 19 minutes results from misused prescription drugs.
Easily accessible prescription meds not only pose a risk to youth, but can tempt those who visit your home. Most of us do not think about it, but these drugs also have a street value per tablet far above what you pay for them. It is important for parents to realize part of the incentive is due to a supply and demand issue. The supply of pills is enormous and the demand to have a new experience is very real in this generation.
What can you do? First, educate kids about the dangers of prescription drug use. According to the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), 40% of teens misperceive that prescription medications are safer to use than illegal drugs. Secondly, only keep those medications that you need, and lock them up and properly dispose of any unused prescription drugs.
The perfect opportunity for disposal will be the , 2012 at the Mercer Island City Hall from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Free lock boxes will be distributed until they are gone and a uniformed Mercer Island Police Officer will be on site to accept unused or unwanted medications.
By taking a few simple steps, you can keep your medicine cabinet from becoming the new “drug dealer” to your teen or their friends.
For more information about Drug Take Back Day on September 29 contact MICTC at 206-275-7743.
Bernice Koo, Mercer Island Community That Cares Coalition Member