Drugs are bad: some scientific enlightenment
Okay, despite popular misconception, not all drugs are bad, and the hippies and the hipsters who stand in the quad talking about legalizing pot have some solid points stating that even some of the illegal drugs can be safe, but I won't be debating or discussing that here. While I am not the craziest supporter of most pharmaceutical drugs, they have greatly improved our lives, but, at a price.In 2006, nearly seven million Americans were abusing prescription drugs-more than the number who are abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, ecstasy and inhalants combined. Considering the relative abundance and ease with which we can get prescription drugs, these figures really are not very surprising.
These days, everyone seems to be using prescription drugs in some way. Pills to help you relax, pills to help you stay up all night and focus, pills to keep you from getting pregnant and pills to help you study anatomy for an extended period of time (you should call a doctor if your concentration lasts more than four hours), just to name a few.
When you, your roommate, friends, parents and grandparents (most have a mini-pharmacy on hand at all times) all have access to prescription drugs, there is bound to be some abuse among everyone. I'm looking at you Gram-grams.
Actually, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, although the elderly only make up about 18% of the population, they account for about one third of all prescription usage. While drug abuse amongst the elderly is starting to rise, they are more often the unknowing source of the prescription drugs being abused. In fact, any person with unmonitored medications could potentially be a drug dealer simply by making the supply easily available to an abuser.
About one in seven college students reported taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them. People have also reported that they considered using pharmaceuticals without a prescription, thinking it is safer than illegal drugs and that there was less of a chance that they would develop an addiction or long-term side effects. Of course taking any chemical substance, especially medications, without a doctor's guidance and prescription can be extremely dangerous and harmful.
While most people who steal prescription drugs from others usually do so for mind or mood alteration, a staggering amount of people are also taking large amounts of any drug they can in order to try to commit suicide. Currently, about 64 percenr of suicide attempts involve an overdose of some sort, and having excess, expired, or unlocked prescription medicines makes it even easier to attempt.
While it may seem like we only store necessary drugs, follow our doctor's orders to finish all of our antibiotics and not just stop taking them when we feel better while disposing of the rest, we often have huge amounts of prescription drugs which are simply forgotten about.
Back home, I remember my dad constantly telling us that we needed to clean out the medicine cabinet every few months. Even though we cleared it regularly, there was always an impressive amount of cough syrups, allergy medication, pain medication, and of course, unfinished bottles of Flintstones Chewable Vitamins which would quickly accumulate.
We would usually toss the pills in the trash and recycle the bottles, though I always secretly wanted to recreate those iconic movie scenes where the bad guy has to run up a flight of stairs and flush his stash before the coppers break down the door. Not that I ever intend on being in such a situation, of course.
Apparently, those bad guys were still doing harm, even if they weren't being sent to jail. While in the past, we have been instructed to flush any unwanted medications down the toilet, new studies show that these medications are not being extracted during water purification and are actually appearing in the water supply while showing up in our drinking water as well.
While some people think that it might be cool to get a little buzz every time they hit the tap, we are also starting to realize that these medications are causing problems with fish and other aquatic life. One of several severe impacts that flushing drugs has created with aquatic wildlife is that male fish are becoming more feminine so populations are having difficulty reproducing.
Considering how the food chain works, high chemical concentrations in these fish will be transferred over to animals who eat these fish or drink from the streams they are in.They too will become affected in ways that we cannot quite predict, though further reproductive anomalies, premature births and deaths have been seen in birds which prey upon affected fish populations.
Thankfully, there are ways to help prevent these things from happening. "In 2007, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy published the first federal guidelines stating that disposing of most medications into sewage was no longer the best option and recommends returning unused, unneeded or expired medications to pharmaceutical take-back locations," said Evan Romrell, an OSU Pharmacy student who is conducting a prescription drug take-back on Nov. 13.
OSU SAFE Rx, which is partnering with the American Medicine Chest Challenge, will be hosting a venue where anyone can anonymously drop off any unwanted medications, including over-the-counter drugs, prescriptions that are controlled or non-controlled, expired or unused, or any other excess medication.
By eliminating the source we can help prevent more prescription drug abuse, reduce overdose related suicide attempts and help prevent further damage to fish and other aquatic wildlife. Safe Rx encourages us to "Save a fish. Save a Friend. Eliminate unwanted Rx."
The drug take-back event will be this Saturday, Nov. 13, in the MU Journey Room. Anyone interested in how they can help with the event, please contact Evan Romrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Sepulveda is senior in botany. The opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily represent those of the Daily Barometer staff. Sepulveda can be reached at email@example.com