“Medicine abuse is a national epidemic” is the opening and disturbing introduction when visiting the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids’ website. It delves further with this explanation: “More Americans are abusing prescription medicine than ever, and like other types of drug use, problematic behavior often begins during the teen and your adult years.”
National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month drives this message home as an annual campaign, observed throughout October, to raise the public’s awareness of the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter medicine abuse. We should remember that sometimes addiction problems begin in our medicine cabinet.
Reading this, of course, casts a sense of gloom, but I want to assure everyone that we can do something about this issue.
I believe that as a society, we have recognized the seriousness of this epidemic. The next question is what we should do about it.
It begins with a personal commitment to getting help for yourself or aiding someone you know and care about so that they find a path to a drug-free life. This is particularly true for our youth.
The plethora of new drugs introduced into the market that offer remedies for physical and mental ills have made inroads into our culture, fostered by advertisements that promote their use. This applies to both prescription drugs and over-the-counter ones.
“Teens and other young adults don’t necessarily see this behavior as risky,” according to the Partnership. “Many believe that since medicine is created and tested in a scientific environment, it is therefore safer to use than street drugs.” Our youth might not appreciate the deadly consequences of drug misuse because of our acceptance and promotion of prescription drugs.
Where should you begin?
Talk to your teens. They might act as though they’re really not listening, but often they pay attention even if they don’t show it.
Safeguard your medications. Know what and how much of each medication is in your medicine cabinet. A regular review is a good practice, and safely discard those that you no longer use or that have passed their expiration date.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Responsible parents will share what they know about drug issues among teens with peers and their social circle. Sometimes problems occur because of benign neglect until the problem begins to manifest itself.
As a legislator, I have been on the front line of this issue and have introduced several bills to prevent drug abuse. They include:
Senate Bill 2387. This bill required data reporting for pharmaceutical manufacturers and wholesale distributors of prescription opioid drugs, medication-assisted treatment drugs and opioid antidote drugs sold or distributed in New Jersey to the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety. This is a tracking mechanism that provides data on these drugs and will ultimately be available on the department’s website.
Senate Bill 2627 requires the pharmaceutical wholesale distributors to maintain a system to assess, identify and report suspicious orders of drugs and a system to collect and store certain customer information. It also requires wholesale distributors to exercise due diligence in assisting in the identification of order that might be diverted from legitimate, lawful channels. My bill is an effort to ensure that they are not getting into the wrong hands.
Senate Bill 2735 requires the licensure of pain management clinics to establish processes that will identify abnormal drug usage and prescribing practices, modifies requirements for opioid prescriptions and medication-assisted treatment, authorizes use of non-opioid advance directives and addresses liability.
Where Can I Get Help?
SAMHSA’s [Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration] National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357), (also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) or TTY: 1-800-487-4889 is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
If you would prefer a link to a locator website, you can find it here.
I also recognize some families have unused prescription medicine in their medicine cabinet. We need a safe and accessible way to dispose of these drugs. With that in mind, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs developed Project Medicine Drop, a valuable, free channel for their removal. You can find medicine drop boxes in police headquarters. Deposit them in the drop box, no questions asked. This allows consumers to dispose of unused and expired medications anonymously, seven days a week.
Don’t hesitate to use these services and to support my legislation. After all, nothing is more precious in life than our children.
That’s my take, what’s yours?