Where's the worst place to keep your prescription drugs? In the medicine cabinet - an unlocked medicine cabinet, that is.
Nationally, one out of five teens reports abusing prescription drugs - second only to marijuana, according to a national survey by the federal government. And they're more likely to get them from home or at a friend or relative's house than from a dealer.
The Ohio County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition has focused efforts in 2010 on the dangers of prescription drug abuse, hosting a Prescription Drug Summit in March and launching several media campaigns, including "Lock and Count Your Meds" and the current message: "Don's share prescription drugs - It's dangerous. It's illegal. And it could be deadly." The "Don't Share" campaign is in conjunction with the West Virginia Prevention Resource Center's Take Care WV campaign, www.takecarewv.org.
To put the mission into action, the coalition now is teaming with the Wheeling Police Department for an Rx Drug Take Back Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7. Residents who have unwanted, unneeded or expired prescription drugs are invited to bring them to the Wheeling Operations Center, 10 Hunter Ave., off Mount de Chantal Road in the Clator neighborhood.
There, pharmacist volunteers will accept and log all the medications. The substances will be turned over to the police immediately to be destroyed safely and properly.
"There is a considerable supply of prescription drugs with the potential for abuse in our community," said Julia Charvat, coalition director. "West Virginians actually fill an average of 18.7 prescriptions per person annually - this is much higher than the U.S. rate of 12."
Drug Enforcement Agency officials attended a South Wheeling Crime Watch last fall and acknowledged the prescription drug problem among local youth.
"They said they were noticing anecdotally - they didn't cite numbers - that a lot of youth are skipping marijuana and skipping booze and just going straight to pills," Charvat said in an Oct. 29 article for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register.
"Teens are resourceful," said Sgt. Don Miller, a Wheeling policeman who serves as Bridge Street Middle School's prevention resource officer. "They will be able to obtain these (prescription) drugs if the adults aren't acting responsibly and account for and secure these meds."
Miller said there are medicine cabinets available on the market that have locks built in. It's also important for people to know exactly what prescriptions they have and how many are in each bottle.
In addition, participating in an event like the Take Back Day helps keep drugs out of kids' hands.
"It contributes to a safer community and less potential for drugs on the street. It keeps our kids safer. If they can't obtain it, they'll be safer," Miller said.
Miller said the Wheeling Police Department will have officers on site at the Take Back location at all times.
"We will actually be safeguarding the box that the prescription medications will be placed into," he said. The police will ensure they are "destroyed properly," he added.
Coalition officials stated all prescription drugs - whether they are controlled substances (such as OxyContin and Xanax) or uncontrolled (such as birth control and antibiotics) - will be accepted.
"Also on Friday, we along with (Drug Enforcement Agency) agents and law enforcement will be going to the different senior (living facilities) in Wheeling" to collect prescriptions to be turned in on Saturday, said Heather Markonich, coalition coordinator. She said Brookpark Place, Elmhurst and St. Paul Terrace will participate.
Disposing of unwanted, unneeded or expired prescription drugs at an event like the one Saturday also serves to protect the environment, said Shanda Minney, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition. Her coalition has sponsored several take-back events as well as placed collection boxes around the state for prescription drugs. Their intent is to keep the drugs out of the state's waterways to safeguard fish, animal and human life.
The Office of National Drug Control Policy recommends prescription drugs not be flushed down the toilet or poured down a drain "unless the label or accompanying information specifically instructs you to do so," according to the website, www.White HouseDrugPolicy.gov.
Saturday's event is open to all Ohio Valley residents. Free pill boxes reminding residents to "Lock and Count" their medications will be available while supplies last, Markonich said.
"Residents are encouraged to bring in their prescription drugs in their original bottles if possible," she added. She said the coalition plans to sponsor additional take-back events, possibly partnering with the Drug Enforcement Agency on National Take Back Day, which is Sept. 25.
The Ohio County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition members comprise various sectors of the community, including law enforcement, health professionals, parents, media, clergy and businessmen and women. The coalition is funded by a Strategic Prevention Framework-State Incentive Grant and a Drug Free Communities grant.
For more information, call 304-233-2045, ext. 305.
The Rx Drug Take Back Day also is being sponsored through a grant secured by Sgt. Duwayne Taylor of the Wheeling Police Department.