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Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse 

October 02, 2015  |  Falmouth Enterprise

Dr. Michael Bihari

On September 26th, along with all of the towns on Cape Cod, Falmouth participated in the National Drug Take-Back Day. Locally, the four-hour event was jointly sponsored by the Falmouth Police Department, Gosnold, and the Falmouth Prevention Partnership.  The take-back day offers people in the community the opportunity to safely dispose of unused or unwanted medications. Not only does this keep medications out of our water supply, but also out of the hands of teens, young adults, and others who may misuse or abuse medications. 

This most recent drug take-back event in Falmouth was a an unqualified success; more than 95 residents dropped off enough medication to fill five large boxes. A substantial percentage of the disposed medications were drugs that had “street value.” These included prescription painkillers (mostly Oxycontin), anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications, and other drugs that can be used to enhance the effect of opioids. 

Aside from participating in the drug take-back day, which helps to decrease the supply of dangerous drugs on the streets, there are other things you can do to help prevent prescription pill abuse.

10 Ways To Help Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

Just because a drug is prescribed by your doctor does NOT mean that it cannot cause harm. When taking a prescription medication follow the guidelines from your doctor or pharmacist and never take more than prescribed. 

Prescription pain medications (such as Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet) are highly addictive. Some individuals are more prone to becoming addicted than others. Know your personal risk factors such as a family history of addiction or a mental health diagnosis. 

Never take a prescription drug that was prescribed for someone else. Drugs affect each person differently and only your healthcare provider, based on your medical history and diagnosis, will know which medications are safe for you.

Sharing your prescription medication with another person is against the law. It doesn’t matter if you sell them or give them away — it is illegal to share your prescription medications

Practice proper storage guidelines for prescription medications. Monitor the use of prescription medication by counting how many pills are left in the bottle. Lock medications in a safe or keep in a secure cabinet. You can purchase a medication lock-box at your local pharmacy. All pharmacies in Falmouth have lock-boxes available. 

Practice proper disposal guidelines for prescription medications. You do not have to wait for a drug take-back day. There is a drug kiosk in the lobby of the Falmouth Police Department that is available 24/7. Dropping off your unwanted medications is completely anonymous and you do not have to give your name or fill out any forms. 

It’s important to understand the link between heroin and prescription painkillers. As a result of efforts to decrease the number of prescription pills available the use of heroin has increased. Heroin is less expensive and more available than pills. About 75% of young adults using heroin initially were addicted to a prescription painkiller.

Talk openly and often with your teen about the hazards of prescription drug abuse and be clear about your disapproval of misusing prescription drugs. 

Teach your child how to respond to someone offering drugs. It is much easier to say “No!” when prepared ahead of time. It helps if you role play and practice. Act out possible scenarios they may encounter. This way, it becomes natural to do at least one of the following:

  • Firmly say, “No!”
  • Give a reason—“No thanks, I’m not into that.” or “No, my parents would get really mad at me."
  • Suggest something else to do, like watch a movie or play a video game.
  • Leave—go home, go to class, go join other friends. 

Know the warning signs that someone you care about might be abusing prescription drugs. Things like significant personality changes, isolation from family or friends, changes in daily habits, neglecting responsibility and defensiveness all could be a sign of drug abuse.

When Is It Taking Medication Considered Abuse or Misuse?

There are four circumstances (and some examples) that define prescription drug abuse and misuse:

Taking someone else’s prescription medications. Mary feels anxious about starting her new after school job at a store on Main Street. She takes a Valium (anxiety medication) that was prescribed for her mother.

Taking a prescription medication in ways other than prescribed. John wants to relax after a long week of exams and football practice. He takes one Percocet  (opiate pain killer) tablet that was prescribed for him for pain after having a wisdom tooth pulled several months ago.

Taking a prescription medication for reasons other than prescribed. Mike, who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), is having trouble focusing on an important school project. He decides to double his prescribed dose of Adderall (stimulant).

Taking a prescription medication for a poor reason, such as getting high. Carol is going to a party on Saturday night and wants to get high with her friends. On her way out of her house, she takes three Percocet (opiate painkiller) and three Xanax (anti-anxiety medication) from her parent’s medicine cabinet to share with her friends.

Resources

If you are concerned about your own or your teen’s misuse of prescription pain medication and feel that you need some help check out the Behavioral Health Portal sponsored by the Barnstable County Department of Human Services. The portal is an excellent resource for individuals and families with behavioral health questions or concerns, including substance abuse issues. It provides information about behavioral health services in our region, including a robust Service Directory that includes resources for children and adolescents. 

To learn more about prescription pill abuse in general, the following resources are up-to-date with information that you and you teen can trust:

NIDA for Teens: Brain and Addiction: An excellent and clear explanation of how the teen brain works and is affected by drug use. 

MedlinePlus-Prescription Drug Abuse: Access to in-depth information about non-medical use of prescription pills. 

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