Steamboat Springs There are 35 fewer pounds of prescription drugs out in the Steamboat Springs community after a national campaign to collect unused and expired medications took place Sept. 25.
The Steamboat Springs Police Department, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition of Routt County and Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide partnered in the local effort of the national Take Back Initiative sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
The event was intended to decrease the access of prescription drugs to teens and adults to help prevent drug abuse, and it collected 242,000 pounds of medication nationwide.
“Woohoo, they’re off the streets,” was the reaction of Ronna Autrey, REPS suicide prevention coordinator. “Right now, the prescription drug thing is huge. It’s because it’s easy access. The proactive thing to do is to get them the heck out of the house.”
Dervla Lacy, Grand Futures Prevention Coalition director, said instances of prescription drug abuse are increasing nationwide.
“I think it’s just the ease of access for youth and other adults in the community to get these prescription drugs,” Lacy said. “When we just store them in our cabinets in our kitchens, we don’t always keep track of anything that might be missing.”
She cited a 2009 Denver survey that reported more than 33 percent of high school students had abused prescription medication. In the survey, teens reported for the first time that prescription drugs were easier to come by than beer.
Also in 2009, 70 percent of drug-related deaths were caused by prescription drug abuse. Still, Lacy said teens perceive that prescription drugs are safer to use because of their ease of availability through family and friends.
Autrey said she has heard reports of teens holding “skittle parties,” in which teens each take a few pills from their parents’ medicine cabinet — just enough that the parents won’t notice — and pour them into a bowl at a party. The teens are taking handfuls of pills without knowing what they are, Autrey said.
“It’s extremely deadly,” she said. “It’s for real, and it’s happening.”
She also said she was concerned about depressed people of all ages using available drugs to self-medicate or, in extreme circumstances, trying to end their lives.
Autrey and Lacy both said community awareness is important in preventing prescription drug abuse.
“We try a variety of techniques,” Lacy said. “It’s really a community effort. I think parents in particular play a unique role in helping to educate their teens about all kinds of drug abuse.”
Still, there is a long way to go, even though 35 pounds of medication sounds like a lot.
“I honestly think we probably could have had more,” Lacy said.
The DEA announced it would repeat the effort twice a year.