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 Rx Drug Take Back Day: October 27, 2018

Think about your medicine cabinet at home for a minute. Do you have prescription drugs left over, maybe pushed toward the back of the cabinet and forgotten?

A great way to get rid of them is coming up on Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the semi-annual Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Take Back. Your disposing of your prescription drugs at this event ensures they can’t fall into the wrong hands.

The DEA Take Back is one of our prevention coalitions’ favorite activities. This event happens in communities all over East Texas and the rest of the country. Local law enforcement set up come-and-go collection sites where residents can drop off their leftover prescription medication, no questions asked.

Residents who come to drop off their drugs almost always thank the law enforcement for holding this event, and often say they wanted to dispose of their leftover prescription drugs but weren’t sure how.

To see Takeback locations in your area, check out the DEA Take Back site.

DEA Take Back East Texas

How did the opioid crisis get started?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 72,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2017, and the number of deaths has climbed every year since opioids started to be prescribed in the 90s, with the total deaths now more than 600,000.

According to Vox News, “The opioid epidemic began in the 1990s, when doctors became increasingly aware of the burdens of pain. 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.”

What is the scope of the problem in East Texas?

According to the Regional Needs Assessment, controlled substances (prescriptions that have a higher potential for abuse) are prescribed at a higher rate in East Texas than the rest of the state, and that access contributes to the fact that teens in East Texas abuse prescription drugs at a higher rate than their peers across Texas.

Regional Needs Assessment take back

How does having leftover pills in your cabinet contribute to the crisis?

The opioid crisis has been in the news a lot lately, and Americans are beginning to understand the impact of leftover drugs sitting in their medicine cabinet. Whenever teens who abuse prescription drugs are surveyed, the majority say they get them for free from friends and family — and sometimes take them from a loved one without their knowledge. Not to mention that prescription drugs are sometimes taken when a burglary occurs to either be consumed or sold for a big profit.

When you dispose of your prescription drugs responsibly with law enforcement, you are not only protecting your teen or another loved one from potential misuse, but also protecting the community. If you can’t make it out to the National Rx Drug Tack Back event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 27, check out our How To Dispose page  for other ways to safely get rid of your medications.

DEA National Rx Drug Takeback Day: April 28, 2018

The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) Takeback will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 28 at various locations across the country.

Here are the participating police departments in our coalition areas:

Tyler Police Department
Broadway Square Mall in Tyler
*Outside JCPenney
4601 S Broadway Ave
Tyler, TX 75703
Download Flyer

Daingerfield Police Department
Lot next to Dollar General in Daingerfield
305 E W M Watson Blvd
Daingerfield, TX 75638
Download Flyer

Henderson Police Department
Henderson Fire Station #2
612 US-79

Henderson, TX 75652
Download Flyer

Athens Police Department
Athens Partnership Building
201 W Corsicana St
Athens, TX 75751
Download Flyer

You may have heard the phrase “DEA Takeback,” but what is it?

It is a concerted effort by law enforcement to reduce the access people have to leftover prescription medications.

Sitting unused in your medicine cabinet is not a good look for prescriptions.

The event is organized by the federal agency every spring and fall. Local law enforcement agencies across the country agree to set up a location where residents can dispose of their leftover prescription drugs, no questions asked.

The DEA hopes that events like this will make it less likely leftover prescriptions can be abused. In fact, the majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs say they get them from friends or family, sometimes without their knowledge.

Prescription drugs are dangerous when they aren’t prescribed to you or when you take them in a way other than the way they are prescribed.

“Taking someone else’s prescription, like Adderall, can cause irregular heart beat and seizures; and abusing pain medicine like Vicodin can restrict breathing. Prescription pain relievers, stimulants, and antidepressants can all have serious side effects if abused—that is, taken in ways or for a reason or by a person not intended by the prescription,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Opioids, a category of strong prescription drugs, are particularly dangerous. These drugs are responsible for the majority of overdose deaths, which is now the largest cause of accidental death in the United States.

“In 2016, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) was 5 times higher than in 1999. From 2000 to 2016, more than 600,000 people died from drug overdoses. On average, 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. We now know that overdoses from prescription opioids are a driving factor in the 16-year increase in opioid overdose deaths. The amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctors’ offices nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, yet there had not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans reported. Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have more than quadrupled since 1999.”

This is why it’s so important for you to dispose of your leftover prescriptions at the DEA Takeback event. Many people understand how dangerous leftover prescription drugs can be; whenever we participate in these events, we always have residents who say thank you and want to know when the next event will be.

If you aren’t able to make it to the DEA Takeback, here are permanent drop boxes in the area you can access anytime:

Smith County Sheriff’s Office
227 N Spring Avenue
Tyler TX 75702
Available M-F, 8-5pm

Smith County Emergency Operations Center
11325 Spur 248
Tyler TX 75707
Available 24 hrs

Brick street Pharmacy
314 W Rusk St
Tyler, TX 75701
(903) 533-8155
Available during Pharmacy Hours

Eagle Pharmacy
1404 S. Main St
Lindale, TX 75771
Available during Pharmacy Hours

Copeland’s Chandler Drug LLC
201 State Hwy 31 W
Chandler TX 75758
Available during Pharmacy Hours

Walgreens Pharmacy – Store #07611
511 E. Marshall Ave.
Longview, 75601

Kilgore Police Department
909 N Kilgore St
Kilgore, TX 75662
(903) 983-1559

Longview Police Department
302 W Cotton St
Longview, TX 75601
(903) 237-1199

White Oak Police Department
103 E Old Hwy 80
White Oak, TX 75693
(903) 759-0106

Rusk County Sheriff’s Office
210 W Charlevoix St
Henderson, TX 75652
Available 24 Hours

Hallsville Police Department
115 W Main St
Hallsville, TX 75650

Morris County Sheriffs Office
502 Union St
Daingerfield, TX 7563

What Happens When There Are More Pills Than People

By Rebecca Smith

Last week, this headline from Vox News caught my eye: “Drug companies shipped nearly 21 million opioid painkillers to a town with 2,900 people.”

That takes your breath away, doesn’t it?

The town is Williamson, West Virginia. West Virginia has suffered the most overdose deaths per capita than any other state in the country. And a big contributor was simply the fact that there were so many drugs there to abuse.

Opioid overdoses are such an issue that a healthcare system in Illinois started requiring last month that doctors prescribe Naloxone with their opioid prescriptions. Naloxone reverses opioid overdoses.

It’s safe to say that opioids can be dangerous and highly addictive. Several pharmaceutical companies have been sued for marketing these drugs as non-addictive. The country is struggling with how to deal with this crisis that kills thousands of people every year.

There are people out there who are already trapped in addiction and will need treatment. We at Next Step are trying to prevent addiction before it ever starts.

Here’s the facts that inform our strategies:

First, two-thirds of teens who misused pain relievers in the past year say that they got them from family and friends, including their home’s medicine cabinets, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. According to the Prevention Resource Center in Longview, 7-12th grade students in East Texas have the highest reported rate in the state for misusing prescription opioids.

Second, simply having easy access is a risk factor for addiction and overdoses in the community. Hence West Virginia’s problem after having more than 200 times the prescriptions than there are people in Williamson.

So, here’s how you can help this issue: One, lock up your medications and keep a log of how much you have. Two, safely dispose of your prescription medications. You can take them to a prescription drug disposal box in your area, use a special disposal bag, or mix them with used coffee grounds or cat litter to make them undesirable before you throw them away. And if you have children, talk to them about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Most teens say that their parents’ disapproval is the No. 1 deciding factor in whether they will try drugs or alcohol.

RX 3 Steps Infographic

If we all do our part to make sure there are fewer prescription drugs sitting in medicine cabinets, it can go a long way to preventing future addiction in our communities.