Pills piling up in the medicine cabinet are more than harmless clutter. When misused, they can kill.
People think painkillers are safer because they are made in a factory, not a garage. They don’t understand how addictive they can be, and that they can die from taking them, said April Rovero, a San Ramon resident who lost her college-age son in 2009 to a prescription drug overdose. It’s heartbreaking. No family should have to go through what we have been through.
Misuse of prescription drugs is one of the fastest-increasing forms of drug abuse, which is why Rovero, Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho and a coalition of public agencies and community groups are raising public awareness about the growing problem of abuse, and about how to properly dispose of unused medication.
Piepho will introduce a proclamation at the Board of Supervisors meeting tomorrow, Oct. 22, to formally recognize National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month in Contra Costa County.
As County Supervisor, public safety is part of my policy initiatives. Highlighting a growing safety problem within our community, prescription drug abuse, is therefore a priority of mine, said Supervisor Mary Piepho.
Addressing the prescription drug abuse epidemic is not only critical for public health, but it will also help build stronger communities, and allow those with substance abuse disorders to lead healthier, more productive lives. It is critical that we reach out to our communities so we can all take part to prevent prescription and over-the-counter drugs from falling into the wrong hands, or from polluting our water supplies.
Keeping unneeded old medicine around can lead to its inadvertent use, or to an accidental poisoning. Recreational use of prescription drugs is also a problem in Contra Costa County, particularly for young people, said Fatima Matal Sol, program manager of Alcohol and Other Drugs Services, part of Contra Costa Health Services’ Behavioral Health Division.
Such abuse can lead to overdoses and addiction.
Young people think these drugs are safer because they are generally prescribed by doctors. But they often do not understand the side effects, or how they interact with other drugs and alcohol, Matal Sol said. We worry about ‘pharma parties’ where young people combine multiple drugs and alcohol, often ending up in the emergency room.
Improper disposal of prescription drugs has also become a growing pollution problem. Unused medicines often wind up in landfills or sewers, leading to contamination that harms the environment and can affect drinking water.
Contra Costa residents can safely dispose of their unused or expired medicines for free on an as-needed basis at locations throughout the county, searchable by zip code at baywise.org<http://baywise.org>, or by calling 888.229.9473<tel:888.229.9473> (BAYWISE).
The Contra Costa County Pharmaceutical Disposal Collaborative, a partnership of public agencies, sanitation districts and community groups, also supports National Prescription Drug Take-Back Days sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. The next one will be held Oct. 26 at locations throughout Contra Costa County.
The collaborative includes Contra Costa Environmental Health, Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Commission, Contra Costa Public and Environmental Health Advisory Board, Contra Costa Alcohol and Other Drugs Advisory Board, Central Contra Costa Sanitary District, Central Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, Contra Costa County Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Coalition, Delta Diablo Sanitation District, the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse, and West Contra Costa Integrated Waste Management Authority.