Macomb, MI: Coalition, police offer drug take back days and 'Dose of Knowledge'
By Nicole Tuttle, For The Macomb Daily
Prescription drug abuse a growing problem, officials say
The place to get drugs is not necessarily the connected stranger on the corner anymore. In fact, it could be grandma and grandpa — whether they know it or not.
National and local surveys of teens show they are seeking highs from the medicine chests in the homes of family and friends rather than on the street, according to Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families Executive Director Charlene McGunn.
Photo by Nicole Tuttle for The Macomb Daily Jim Middleton, a health care and pharmacy educator, discussed the kinds of drugs and patients that pharmacists watch carefully during a conference titled "Dose of Knowledge - Prescription Drug and Opiate Abuse by Youth."
"There is a fallacy that if the drugs are doctor prescribed, they are safe," McGunn said.
According to statistics from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, two out of five teens believe that prescription drugs are "much safer" than illegal drugs. In addition, 63 percent of teens believe prescription drugs are easy to get from friends and family's medicine cabinets, according to the DEA.
Oxycodone, Ritalin and Vicodin are among the primary drugs teens are seeking to abuse to create a high, according to McGunn.
The need to educate parents and seniors as well as youth and the community at large is becoming of greater importance in the anti-drug message. To help combat the problem and disseminate the message, the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families and Project Remedy at CARE (Community Assessment Referral Education) provided a recent seminar at the Macomb Intermediate School District. More than 300 representatives of schools, law enforcement and the medical community attended the conference called "Dose of Knowledge — Prescription Drug and Opiate Abuse by Youth."
The conference agenda included a discussion of the national and local picture by Jim Geldhof, a program manager for the DEA, and Harolyn Tarr, MPH, a principal epidemiologist with the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion. Jim Middleton, a health care and pharmacy educator, discussed perspectives on prescription drug and opiate abuse by youth. Included in Middleton's discussion was information about the types of drugs that pharmacists watch the use of, including cough syrups, narcotics, sedatives and items such as Sudafed.
Middleton said pharmacists often see patients who know more about prescription drugs or medical insurance coverage than they do; patients with elaborate excuses or are extremely friendly raise red flags. Extremely thin, asymptomatic, agitated, toothless 20-somethings seeking Sudafed 24-hour capsules are also considered suspicious, according to Middleton.
The message McGunn said she is hoping to get through to parents is that drug abuse is not something that is always happening to someone else's child.
"Abuse transcends social groups," McGunn said.
Also, parents need to be aware of the dangers of prescription drugs that students or their friends may be taking from medicine cabinets.
"They (parents and grandparents) should dispose of medications and not keep them after they stop using them," said McGunn. "Safe disposal is important."
The conference will be followed up by action. On Saturday, the Macomb County Sheriff's Office will offer a drug take back day in the parking lot near the Sheriff's Office and at the Macomb County Health Department, both on Elizabeth Road in Mount Clemens. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., prescription pills will be accepted, sheriff's Capt. Anthony Wickersham said.
"The key is to get them out of the house and destroy them properly," Wickersham said.
Flushing medication down the toilet is not a proper solution because it could affect the water supply.
In addition to the take back day, the Sheriff's Office offers a free medication disposal program for unused prescribed narcotic medications at its main location, Wickersham said.
On Nov. 13, the Sheriff's Office will participate in the American Medicine Chest Challenge from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The coalition is also planning to provide information about dangers through targeted messages such as PSA's, school curriculums and print, according to McGunn. Some PSA's will run at local MJR Theaters, McGunn said.
The coalition also is planning to engage youth in the community through coalition teen councils, SADD groups, and by working with medical careers students, McGunn said.