Summit County Justice Center adds public prescription drug drop-box
Summit County residents can now drop off prescription drugs at a collection box at the county justice center in Breckenridge.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office installed the collection box April 13 in the center’s lobby in an effort to reduce prescription drug misuse, which was recently declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The fact that Summit County has one is really huge because most counties don’t,” said Lauren Alessi, who works with the Colorado nonprofit Peer Assistance Services to address prescription drug abuse. “It’s hard to find places where you can take the medication.”
Laurie Blackwell, coordinator of the local Healthy Futures Initiative, spearheaded the Summit drop-box after learning that one person dies every day in Colorado on average from prescription drug overdose. She thought one collection event a year, through the 9Health Fair in April, was not enough.
“Summit County could be a model,” she said.
Blackwell also brought Alessi to Summit for a training April 14 with community leaders who meet quarterly as part of the initiative’s 35-member coalition.
There representatives of Summit agencies and organizations discussed how the issue affects the mountain resort community, where residents often suffer more injuries than in other communities with less active, outdoor lifestyles.
“What we see most frequently is narcotic addiction. Painkillers, mostly,” said Sarah Vaine, CEO of the Summit Community Care Clinic.
According to the CDC, the amount of painkillers, called opioids, prescribed and sold in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled in the last 15 years, and overdose deaths have quadrupled in lock-step.
“America leads the world for painkiller prescriptions like OxyContin. This is very much an American problem,” Alessi told the coalition, and misuse of prescribed painkillers can be just as dangerous as the use of their illegal counterparts such as heroin.
More people die after taking prescription drugs than all other drugs combined, and drug overdoses kill more people than guns, traffic and falls.
“There is usually more than one drug in your system when you overdose,” Alessi said. “What people are usually doing is taking several different drugs together, and it’s that interaction that makes them so dangerous.”
The most commonly misused prescription drugs are depressants used to treat sleep disorders and anxiety like Xanax and Valium, stimulants used to treat ADHD like Adderall and Vyvanse, and opiods used to treat pain like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin.
Misuse of the drugs happens when they are taken without prescriptions, shared among friends or relatives for medical use, used to get high, or used with prescriptions but for longer or more frequently than directed.
Locally, according to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 16.4 percent of Summit High School students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription compared to the state average of 13.6 percent.
The survey was taken by high school students around the state in the fall of 2013.
The coalition focused on promoting the message of safe use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs.
“We’re trying to take the parents’ medicine cabinet and turn it into a lockbox,” she said, as well as send the message to adults and youth that prescription drugs should not be shared. “Sharing is something that is very common, and people don’t understand that as not using it safely.”
She encouraged people to talk to their doctors about what alternatives can be used instead or in addition to potentially addicting or dangerous prescription drugs and to create plans with their health care provider for stopping use of the medication.
The drop-box is available for public disposal of prescription drugs Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 501 North Park Ave. in Breckenridge. The sheriff’s office will safely incinerate the medications. Liquids, inhalers and needles will not be accepted.
Over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen can be dropped off at City Markets locations in Breckenridge and Dillon to prevent negative impacts to local water quality, and those unsure about a medication should drop it off at the justice center.
The Healthy Futures Initiative is funded by a federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant and aims to promote individual healthy choices in Summit and lifestyles free of alcohol and drug abuse.
For more information about prescription drug misuse, visit takemedsseriously.org, the online home of a public awareness campaign created by the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.
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