By Mary O’KEEFE
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that a new study shows a fourfold increase in substance abuse treatment admissions involving non-medical use of prescription narcotic pain relievers in a 10-year period.
According to the study, the proportion of all substance abuse treatment admission of those aged 12 and older involving abuse of prescription pain relievers rose by over 400%, from 2.2% in 1998 to 9.8% in 2008. This rise in proportion of admissions associated with the abuse of these drugs occurred among nearly all segments of the population regardless of age, gender, educational level and employment status.
The recent increases are a concern to law enforcement and community members. Prescription drugs are in most homes and many times that medication finds its way into the hands of kids or adults that misuse the drug. For this reason the Drug Enforcement Agency has partnered with local law enforcement and the community for a Drug Drop Off day on Saturday.
“We will have four [drop off] locations in [Glendale],” said Glendale Officer Joe Allen, Drug Take Back coordinator for Glendale Police.
DEA agents, Glendale police and volunteers will have drop off stations set up at CVS pharmacies at 2037 Verdugo Blvd. in Montrose, 3949 San Fernando Road, 1122 E. Broadway Ave. and 780 Flower Street in Glendale. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies will join DEA and the community at Rite Aid at 2647 Foothill Blvd. and at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station at 4554 Briggs Ave. in La Crescenta. The CV Sheriff’s Station has three permanent drop-off receptacles for prescription drugs, hypodermic needles and marijuana.
“Every year we see a slow and steady increase of prescription medications and over-the-counter medications being misused and [used recreationally],” Allen said.
Allen added these type of drugs are easily assessable and typically not kept in a secure area of the household.
The Crescenta Valley Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition has also partnered with DEA for the event. This is the second Drug Drop Off Day the organization has participated in.
At the last event, with only two locations participating, the coalition and law enforcement collected 327 pounds of medication.
“It was successful last time. I was [volunteering] at the CVS location [in Montrose]. We had a steady stream of people dropping off there,” said Susan Dubin, new executive director for the coalition.
Coalition President Matt Zakarian, a Glendale police officer, said the coalition’s participation in this event is in keeping with their goal of educating the public.
“We are really trying to communicate the perception of harm,” Zakarian said.
He added that many times people do not understand how dangerous prescription medication can be not only for those who misuse it for recreational purposes but for the medications that are outdated.
“And people acting as their own doctors and prescribing [medicines they have] to their friends,” he said.
The goal of the day is to get unneeded and outdated over-the-counter and prescription drugs out of the homes and disposed of safely, and to get information on the misuse of these drugs.
It is also a day to raise awareness of the problem.
“Any prescription drugs that you have, you need to lock up or put in a more discreet location. When you invite people into your home they regularly have access to the kitchen and bathroom,” Allen said. These are common places where medication is kept.
He added that it is not just children in the house who have the potential of taking the medication but those children’s friends or other adults that visit a home.
“We don’t always know the tendencies or dependencies of others that come into [our] homes,” he said.
All prescription and over-the-counter drugs are accepted at the drug drop off locations including expired or unwanted vitamins.
Drug Drop-Off times are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.