By Jason KUROSU
The Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition held its first public meeting in a new format on Monday night at the La Crescenta Library. The coalition kept its members and local residents who chose to attend updated on the coalition’s recent activities, including the announcement that executive director David Marquez had found employment elsewhere. But the crux of the meeting was a drug issue that appears to have garnered serious attention only recently: the abuse of legal, over-the-counter and prescription medication.
Those who attended the meeting received multiple packets filled with grim statistics concerning this burgeoning form of abuse. For example, statistics from the DEA indicate that every day, 2,500 teenagers use prescription drugs to get high for the first time, many doing so under the belief that it will be safer than using illicit or illegal drugs, when the numbers indicate otherwise. Perhaps more alarming are the statistics that say that overdoses from prescription drugs have overtaken automobile accidents as the leading cause of death for Americans nationwide.
“One death every 14 minutes,” said Joe Allen, a member of the Glendale Police Department with nine years of experience working narcotics. “Pharmaceutical abuse is far more prevalent than we give it attention.”
One of the biggest events the Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition is taking part in concerning prescription drug abuse is the DEA Take Back Event, a nationwide one-day event taking place on Oct. 29 in which people can drop off their unwanted or expired medication at sites across the country.
“This is a ‘no questions asked’ event,” said Mike Lewis of the Drug Enforcement Administration. “The goal is to get it out of the medicine cabinet.”
The DEA has held the Take Back Event every six months for the last year and a half. Over 309 tons of pills at over 5,300 collection sites have been turned in through the last two events.
“We’ve been working with a lot of community groups. Everyone has to work together to address the problem,” said Lewis. “I appreciate the coalition’s support of the take back.”
Dave Meyers of De Soto Pharmacy, and a longtime resident, also spoke about CURES or the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, a prescription drug monitoring system. CURES is an evaluation system much like the triplicate, which will help pharmacists evaluate whether or not someone should receive a particular medication.
“It’s an extremely useful tool for seeing if the information someone is giving you lines up,” Meyers said.
It is also hoped that a program like CURES will discourage “doctor-shopping” or searching for doctors who are more willing to give out prescriptions.
Meyers also talked about the importance of keeping medication safe and secure in the home.
“Treat your medication like you would a roll of money. You wouldn’t keep something you value that much in your medicine cabinet.”
Securing medication in a place that could not be accessed by anyone but the person prescribed that medication was a key point of the meeting.
“I can’t echo enough what Dave mentioned about locking up and securing your pharmaceuticals,” said Allen. “Keeping them in the bathroom is not a good idea.”
Allen described a situation in which a neighbor of his came over frequently after Allen had shoulder surgery, under the pretense of checking up on him. In reality, the neighbor was stealing the Vicodin that Allen had been prescribed from his medicine cabinet.
Allen concluded by supporting the take back event and the effectiveness he believes it will have in getting prescription drugs out of the hands of the wrong people.
“We’re excited about the take back event and about being a part of it.”
Take Back sites in the Montrose-La Crescenta area include the CVS Pharmacy, Rite Aid Pharmacy and the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station and will be open for collection on Oct. 29 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, contact Julia Rabago at (818) 248-4957 or email at Julia@cvdapc.org.