Prescription drug abuse serious


By Pam Slater-Price

Chairwoman, San Diego County Board of Supervisors

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than one in five teenagers admits to abusing prescription drugs, such as Ritalin, Xanax or OxyContin.

The national trend supports what officials with the Oxy Task Force of San Diego County see locally as a rising prescription drug epidemic among young adults.

To reduce that supply, Sheriff Bill Gore and I partnered in putting forward a countywide ordinance to install 22 prescription drug drop-off boxes, unanimously approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors on June 22.

These boxes will provide a safe, “no questions asked” option for residents to get rid of these addictive and potentially fatal drugs. The Sheriff’s Department expects to have the receptacles installed by the fall.

The need for these drop boxes is great. At our most recent prescription drug Take Back Day, San Diego County Sheriff’s officials collected more than 2,500 pounds of drugs from residents countywide for destruction — more than a metric ton of drugs from homes.

But now comes the hard part. With such a plentiful drug supply, we must seriously address a twofold problem: access and education.

“Some people may falsely believe that prescription drugs are safer than illegal drugs,” said Howell Wechler, Ed.D., M.P.H., director of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.

Overcoming this belief is one problem we are dealing with locally.

In San Diego County, prescription drug-related deaths shot up 67 percent from 2005 to 2009 in San Diego County, according to data from the San Diego medical examiner’s office. In fact, the data shows that prescription drugs were involved in roughly 40 percent of the top 10 drug-related overdose cases.

This swift increase resulted in the formation of the Oxy Task Force, originally formed in 2008 to address the abuse of OxyContin, a prescription painkiller containing a potent dose of the synthetic opiate oxycodone. When abused, the euphoria-inducing drug mimics a heroinlike rush and highly addictive qualities.

We hope to get ahead of the problem. Without limited staffing, the task force has and will continue to make educational presentations to schools, PTAs, community councils and more.

These drop boxes should help reduce the easy access to drugs in the home. Together with the community, we are working to educate the public on the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

To learn more about drug prevention and treatment resources in San Diego County, call the toll-free hotline (877) 662-6384. Visit the Oxy Task Force’s Facebook page by searching for “Oxy Task Force.”

Pam Slater-Price represents San Diego County’s 3rd District and is a member of the Oxy Task Force of San Diego County. Follow her @PamSlaterPrice.