The growing epidemic of opioid addiction and the frequent misuse of prescribed medication is leading local and state officials to urge residents to properly secure and dispose of unused pills.
As part of the SCOPE 4 Hope Opioid Summit planned for Sept. 12, the Sampson County Substance Abuse Coalition is taking action to raise awareness of accidental overdoses due to opiates and other prescription drugs by encouraging the use of medicine lock boxes or local drop boxes.
While many Americans believe that prescription medications are safer than illegal drugs because they are prescribed by a doctor, statistics say 1,000 North Carolinians die every year due to prescription medication overdose.
While unintentional, family and friends are fueling this epidemic by holding onto unused medications or not properly securing prescription bottles in the home. Approximately 67 percent of people who abuse prescription medications get them from family and friends.
According to Sarah Bradshaw, director of the Sampson County Department of Social Services and member of the Coalition, the lock box initiative is one way local government and law enforcement officials are working to prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse.
Prescription drug misuse and abuse often occurs when someone uses a medication that was prescribed for someone else, or when someone uses their medication in a way not intended by their doctor. By using the medicine lock boxes, these prescriptions are secured from getting into the wrong hands.
The medicine lock box initiative, while primarily directed at North Carolina seniors, is urged of anyone who posses narcotic pain medication.
Nearly 18 percent of adults over age 65 are taking pain medications on a regular basis, therefore Bradshaw said the summit will include information for seniors and how they can take action to help with the growing problem.
As part of the Lock Your Meds Campaign, residents are urged to not only lock up unused medication, but monitor the quantity to see if anything is missing and use a home medicine inventory card to help keep track of medications.
Another measure being utilized locally to raise awareness is participation in the statewide Safe Kids NC Operation Medicine Drop Campaign. In March, medication take back stations were located at neighboring pharmacies to accept any expired or unused prescription medications.
According to Clinton Police Chief Donald Edwards, the local police department has a permanent medication disposal box housed at the department as a location the public can feel safe to take their medication for proper disposal.
“The public can ask their pharmacy about the medicine take back process,” Edwards explained. “However, any method to secure medications is a positive.”
Lt. Robbie King with the Clinton Police Department monitors the drop box and on a rotation schedule, empties the contents and logs them into the department’s system. Once documentation is made, King said the medicine is properly disposed.
“It’s important to discard any unused or outdated medication that can be harmful to anyone, especially if children get it in their hands,” King explained. “You also have a lot of people who are breaking into homes, looking for those narcotic drugs. Getting the medicine out of the house will help keep homeowners safe.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.