Prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest growing drug problem and it's no different here in NE Seattle. According to the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, current use of prescription painkillers for non-medical purposes has steadily increased among NE Seattle middle and high school students over the past few years.
Complete NE Seattle Healthy Youth Survey results are available on the Prevention WINS website.
Like alcohol and marijuana, NE Seattle high school students who abuse prescription painkillers get them socially. Overwhelmingly they say that they get painkillers they abuse "from a friend." One original source is likely someone's medicine cabinet. Everyone should be encouraged to lock up their medications and safely dispose of left-over medications to reduce youth access to them.
The White House Prescription Drug Prevention Plan recommends four strategies:
- Education. A crucial first step in tackling the problem of prescription drug abuse is to educate parents and youth about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs. This includes education about proper storage and disposal of prescription drugs. Substance abuse prevention activities conducted in schools and communities throughout King County are doing this.
- Monitoring. Implement prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to reduce “doctor shopping” and diversion. Washington State has a PDMP in place.
- Enforcement. Provide law enforcement with the tools necessary to eliminate pill mills, diversion of prescription drugs, and organized crime selling prescription drugs. Law enforcement agencies around the county are doing this.
- Proper Medication Disposal. Develop convenient and environmentally responsible prescription drug disposal programs to help decrease the supply of unused prescription drugs in the home. While some local jurisdictions and pharmacies are doing this, a county-wide program that is convenient for all citizens is needed.
A permanent, convenient secure medicine return program that is well-promoted is one way that King County can prevent medicine abuse. Like all substance abuse and poisoning prevention programs, everyone has a role to play to be most effective. Businesses that produce medicines comprise one sector that can play a significant role by paying for and implementing a county-wide, permanent medicine return program.
The King County Board of Health is accepting comments from the public about the need for such a program. People may submit comments in writing or in person during Thursday's Board of Health public hearing on the issue.