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Prescription disposal program starts with discussion on drug abuse

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published April 15, 2015

 Prescription drug lockboxes will be given away for free at the 2015 Prescription Drug Safe Disposal Day April 25 at the Royal Oak Police Department.

Prescription drug lockboxes will be given away for free at the 2015 Prescription Drug Safe Disposal Day April 25 at the Royal Oak Police Department.

ROYAL OAK — Local leaders gathered last week behind the common cause of stopping drug abuse and misuse through the proper disposal of prescription drugs.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison, Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin, Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue and Royal Oak Community Coalition Executive Director Diane Dovico composed a panel at the Royal Oak Police Department April 8 to discuss the ongoing issue of prescription drugs getting into the wrong hands or being disposed of improperly.

“It’s important that they be disposed of the right way because you don’t want to simply flush them down because they contain elements that are really difficult for our water systems to handle,” Levin said. “So, for a variety of reasons, it is important to reach out and to have this problem addressed the right way.

“So, today really marks, it highlights, the right way to do this, to reach out to students, and I think another fact that is so clear is that addiction starts early.”

The gathering promoted 2015 Prescription Drug Safe Disposal Day, which will take place from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 25, at the Royal Oak Police Department. However, residents do not have to wait until then to dispose of expired or no-longer-needed prescription drugs.

A drug disposal receptacle is available in the Royal Oak Police Department lobby, located at 221 E. Third St., throughout the year. Officers are available to assist with the disposal, or anyone can dispose of the drugs themselves, no questions asked.

“We’ve got an easy spot; we’re open 24-7, no questions asked,” O’Donohue said. “You come in and drop it off, and we’ll make sure it is properly disposed of.”

Panel members said the issue of prescription drug disposal is both serious and prevalent.

“Teen abuse of prescription drugs is one of our biggest drug problems in Royal Oak,” O’Donohue said. “There is no question there is a link between teen abuse of prescription drugs and depression and suicide.”

Prescription drug abuse happens with children throughout the area, and local leaders said that even if parents think their kids would never steal or abuse prescription drugs from inside their own house, maybe their friends or other visitors or workers who come to the home would.

“Keep track of your usage,” Ellison said. “And if you see that your medicines are decreasing faster than you are using them, then you need to find out why.”

Dovico cautioned to keep an eye on all medications, regardless of what they are for, because often seemingly benign drugs are sold to the unknowing as something more popular or in high demand. She also cautioned that people don’t always know when taking a pill could have an adverse reaction to something someone is taking already.

According to the coalition, the four types of prescription and over-the-counter medications that are commonly abused are pain relievers, stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers. Coalition data shows, nationwide, 15 percent of kids 12-17 have reported lifetime nonmedical use of one of these pharmaceutical medicines, and 56 percent of teens have said that it’s easy to get prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets.

“It is up to us to police ourselves,” Ellison said. “It’s up to us to keep our medicine cabinets clear of prescription drugs we’re not using anymore, and also keep an inventory of what you are using so that you can see if it is disappearing faster than you are using it.”

Last year, a statistic was given stating that two-thirds of all overdose 911 calls coming into the Royal Oak Police Department were from prescription drugs, which O’Donohue said sounds true to date.

Data studied by the coalition shows this isn’t just a teenage problem. A study conducted of EMS runs in Royal Oak for prescription drug abuse included people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s.

“It’s a communitywide issue because people don’t understand how incredibly addictive and how incredibly toxic the prescription drugs are,” Lewis-Lakin said. “They figure that if they got them from their doctor, they’re safe.

“They are safe to use as prescribed, but not as not prescribed, and they are not safe to keep.”

Dovico said that everyone in the community needs to take their roles seriously when it comes to prescription drugs.

“That is such an important tool — preventing access,” she said.

Levin said he believes the abuse of prescription drugs has become the fastest-growing drug problem in the country.

“I don’t think 15 to 20 years ago we envisioned that,” he said.   He said the latest data since the takeback programs began shows that more than 4 million pounds of prescription drugs have been collected.

Levin said that about $100 million a year is given to anti-drug coalitions, like the Royal Oak Community Coalition, throughout the country.

“Strong communities and strong schools are intertwined. You need a strong community to support strong schools, and you need strong schools to have a strong community,” Lewis-Lakin said. “The environment in which our kids live and learn is critically important, and prescription drugs are a part of the environment.

“They can be a healthy part of the environment when used correctly. They can be an unhealthy part of the environment not only when they are readily available in medicine cabinets and not secured, but they become an unhealthy part of the environment when they are disposed of improperly and begin impacting the quality of the water and the environment.”

During the April 25 event, the coalition will give away prescription lockboxes. The combination-lock containers may be used at home to store prescription drugs.

“Prescription drugs, in many ways, are no less lethal than that firearm. So, if you’ve got prescription drugs in your home, keep a lock on them,” Lewis-Lakin said.

The event will feature expert advice and literature on the importance of keeping prescription drugs out of the wrong hands, from being misused, from being sold, or from harming the environment from improper disposal.

No needles, liquids or inhalers will be collected at the event.

All drugs collected at the Police Department are incinerated.