As Montanans, we are blessed to live in Big Sky Country. However, prescription drug abuse is an ugly problem marring our beautiful state.
In fact, from 2011 – 2013 prescription drug overdoses (where no substances other than Rx drugs were present) were responsible for at least 369 deaths and more than 7200 hospital inpatient admissions and emergency department encounters in our state according to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Epidemiology and Scientific Support. When factoring in poisonings that included prescription drugs and other substances (such as alcohol or illicit drugs) those numbers rise even higher.
Additionally, more than five percent of Montana teens ages 12-17 reported having used a prescription pain killer for a nonmedical purpose in the past year. That number rises to nearly ten percent (9.36%) among young adults ages 18-25. (2012-2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health)
Possibly even more troubling is that now across the country 80 percent of “recent heroin initiates had previously used prescription opioids non-medically,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The link between prescription painkiller abuse and subsequent and/or simultaneous heroin abuse continues to grow.
So what can we Montanans do to help our family members, friends and neighbors who might be struggling with or susceptible to prescription drug abuse?
Resolve to practice responsible use of our own medications to set a good example for others.
-Follow all instructions given by the prescriber and read the material that the pharmacy provides with the medication.
-Only take the exact dose of medication indicated by your doctor, and only take the medication for the issue for which it was prescribed.
-Nearly 70 percent of prescription painkiller abusers get their drugs from a friend or family member, and most get them for free (2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.)
-Don’t share your medication with others. Even though they are prescribed by a doctor, prescription drugs are not universally safe for everyone to take. Prescribers factor in a patient’s health history, weight, current condition and more when writing a prescription. What is a safe dose for one person could prove to be deadly for the next.
Resolve to safely and responsibly store and dispose of our medication.
-Store your medication in a place where only you know to look that is not easily accessible to young children or pets. This will help reduce the chances of an accidental poisoning of your most precious family members.
-When a medication is no longer needed, it is best to get it out of the home. Safely and responsibly dispose of your prescription medications by bringing them to a permanent prescription drop-box location or at a prescription drug take-back event in your community.
-A list of permanent drop box locations in Montana can be found here. If you are unable to use a drop box program, follow these at-home disposal recommendations from the Office of National Drug Control Policy:
1. Take your prescription drugs out of their original containers.
2. Mix drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
3. Put the mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
4. Conceal or remove any personal information, including the prescription number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off.
5. Place the sealed container with the mixture and the empty drug containers in the trash.
Resolve to talk to our loved ones about the dangers of misusing prescription substances.
-There’s a saying, “Your perception is your reality.” Until we start changing our perception of prescription drugs as being ‘not as dangerous’ as other drugs, we will continue to see a reality where too many Montana families are devastated by prescription drug overdoses. The conversation starts in our government agencies, in our doctors’ offices, in our schools, and most importantly, in our homes.