816 North Opinion

July 22, 2014

Collin Stosberg: Take steps to safeguard prescription drugs

“Drug abuse” often takes a form that parents never suspect, with prescription drugs swiped from the medicine cabinet.

Most parents share a common concern about preventing their children from becoming involved in illegal drug use.

When they think about “drugs,” the substances that typically come to mind are: marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, ecstasy, etc. Parents hope to keep their children out of situations where they would have access to these substances.

Yet people seldom consider substances that are available in their home. Prescription drug abuse is a significant problem in all areas of the country and is responsible for deaths and emergency medical treatment every day.

The Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute on Drug Abuse both identify the most commonly abused medications as opioids, benzodiazepines, and amphetamine-like drugs. Opioids are generally prescribed to treat pain. Some examples are hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, and codeine. Opioids are the most dangerous of the three, with a 300 percent increase in overdose cases since 1999. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants generally prescribed to induce sleep, prevent seizures, and relieve anxiety. Some examples are alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam. Amphetamine-like drugs are central nervous system stimulants generally prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

These medications are legitimately prescribed for individuals with medical conditions that require their use. Frequently, individuals who legitimately possess these medications do not realize their high potential for abuse, and fail to consider that they are in high demand by persons who would abuse them or sell them for significant profit on the black market.

Leaving any prescription medications, especially those with high potential for abuse, in an area where they are easily accessed is an invitation for theft or diversion.

Consider taking steps to safeguard these medications and disposing of them when they are no longer needed. Safeguarding medications can be as simple as storing them in a place where a guest or visitor is unlikely to expect to find them, and being attentive to the quantity on hand.

Often, prescription medication belonging to a friend or family member is diverted in small quantities over a long period of time to avoid detection and ensure a continuing supply. A solution to this problem may be keeping small, easy to manage, quantities at hand for anticipated use over a period of a week, and keeping the remaining quantity stored in a place with limited access.

If you, or a loved one, need help with a drug problem, consider visiting a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in your area or call the Missouri Department of Mental Health, Division of Behavioral Health, at (800) 575-7480.

Sgt. Collin Stosberg is with the Missouri Highway Patrol.

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