What an 1864 Epidemic and Today’s Substance Abuse Prevention Have In Common

By Nathan Grounds

Substance Abuse Prevention Month

This October marks the 10th annual National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, a designation designed to honor those who have lost their lives to substance abuse and to highlight the significance of prevention efforts nationwide.

Substance misuse is not something foreign to East Texans. According to the Texas Regional Needs Assessment, the average age of first use for alcohol in East Texas is 12.9, slightly younger than the state average of 13.1. This is important for folks who work in prevention, because age of first use is a significant factor in predicting future alcohol dependence. In fact, a young person whose first drink comes at age 15 is six times more likely to become alcohol dependent than adults who begin drinking at age 21, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Obviously, the goal of prevention is to see these numbers reversed, but how exactly is this accomplished?

Something In the Water

In 1864 a physician named John Snow was sent to London to attend to those who had contracted Cholera, an epidemic that was raging through the city. In an effort to discover the source of the disease, Snow began to map the housing locations of those who’d fallen ill. It wasn’t long before he made an alarming discovery: the vast majority of those diagnosed had drawn their water from a single source, the Broad Street pump. By simply removing the handle of the pump, thus closing its access, the spread of cholera was essentially eliminated.

One of the more significant acknowledgements in the prevention field today is the significance the environment plays in substance misuse. Like John Snow, substance abuse coalitions all across the country seek to analyze environmental factors within their communities that lead to substance abuse; things like easy access, low perceived risk, and social norms. Once these factors have been identified, coalition members plan and implement strategies to change the environment in such a way that young people are less likely to turn to substances .

East Texas Prevention and the Part You Play

Locally, the Northeast Texas Coalition Against Substance Abuse (NETCASA) is hard at work to make the environmental changes necessary to reduce prescription drug abuse. According to SAMSHA, two-thirds of teens who obtain pills not prescribed to them get them from familiar places like friends, family, or home medicine cabinets. Unfortunately, many adults do not properly dispose of their unneeded prescriptions, making it far too easy for teens to get a hold of.

To combat this trend, NETCASA has partnered with local law enforcement to host the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Takeback Event. This fall’s event will take place on October 24 from 10 to 2. Simply round up your unwanted prescriptions and drop them off at any of the participating drop sites. You can find a drop site near you on the DEA website or our Rx prevention website.

Can’t make it to the event? You can drop off your meds at one of the 30+ Rx drop boxes across East Texas. Click here to find an Rx drop box near you. Simply drop your medications in the box. No questions asked.

With your help, we can take a major step in preventing youth prescription drug abuse in East Texas.

NOTE: Due to the ongoing pandemic, the DEA Takeback is a drive-thru event only with no gatherings allowed. To ensure everyone’s safety, please wear a mask and maintain social distance protocols.

2019 National Prevention Week – Preventing Prescription and Opioid Drug Misuse

Opioid abuse and overdose has become the defining public health crisis of our time. On average, 130 Americans die every day of opioid overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

This week is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Prevention Week. Today’s focus is on Preventing Prescription and Opioid Drug Misuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the cost of the crisis is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

There are some solutions that prevention experts are working on. One is drop boxes for leftover prescription drug at law enforcement agencies and pharmacies. When teens abuse prescription drugs, more than half of the time they get the drugs from friends and family, sometimes stealing drugs out of a medicine cabinets. To see drop box locations in the East Texas area, check out our Rx Drop Box map.

Another strategy is encouraging doctors to adhere to the CDC prescribing guidelines. These include things like talking to the patient about the risks, keeping the prescription short anywhere from 3-14 days depending on the situation) and checking a database of opioid prescriptions, the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, to cut down on doctor shopping.

In East Texas, there are 209 controlled substance prescriptions written for every 100 people.

Unfortunately, “roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and “about 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.” By educating the public on the risk of addiction when opioids are misused, hopefully that percentage will decrease.

If you have leftover prescription drugs at home, it’s important that you dispose of the ones you no longer need, and to monitor the ones that you are still currently taking. By working together, we can all do our part to help reduce the impact of the opioid crisis.

National Prevention Week, Day Three: Prescription & Opioid Drug Misuse

Maybe you’ve heard about “The Opioid Crisis” in the news. It is one of the biggest public health epidemics of our time.

According to the CDC, from 1999 to 2016, more than 630,000 people have died from a drug overdose. Around 66 percent of the more than 63,600 drug overdose deaths in 2016 involved an opioid. In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and illegal opioids like heroin and illicitly manufactured fentanyl) was 5 times higher than in 1999, and on average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Unfortunately, according to the Region 4 Needs Assessment for the 23 counties that make up this part of Texas, “compared to the state and to the other regions, Regions 4 & 5 have the highest reported rate of non‐medical current (30‐day) use, school year use, and lifetime use for all grades and for the 12th grade of prescription drugs (Texas School Survey, 2016). When looking at lifetime use of selected prescription drugs among Grades 7‐12, Region 4 & 5 students have the highest reported rate in the state for the two opioid categories.”

How did we get here?

“The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when doctors became increasingly aware of the burdens of pain,” according to an article from news website Vox.com. “Pharmaceutical companies saw an opportunity, and pushed doctors — with misleading marketing about the safety and efficacy of the drugs — to prescribe opioids to treat all sorts of pain. Doctors, many exhausted by dealing with difficult-to-treat pain patients, complied — in some states, writing enough prescriptions to fill a bottle of pills for each resident. The drugs proliferated, making America the world’s leader in opioid prescriptions.”

Because there are so many drugs out there, part of how to prevent the problem from getting worse is to properly dispose of leftover prescription drugs that are no longer needed, and not saving them for a rainy day.

There are several ways you can dispose of your prescription medications and keep them from falling into the wrong hands. One, use a prescription drug drop box if one is available in your community. These are a great option because the drugs are incinerated by law enforcement, keeping them out of landfills and the water supply. Here is our list of those boxes in East Texas.

Two, participate in the twice-annual DEA Takeback event. The event is typically held in April and October every year.

Three, use a prescription drug pouch that will deactivate the drugs if one is available to you. Ask your pharmacist about other good ways to dispose of your prescription drugs.