On October 17th a number of agencies came together to hold the community's first "Prescription Drug Round Up." The event, in response to a growingproblem in the community, was held at 5 sites in Reno and Sparks and invited anyone to bring in prescription and over the counter drugs to one of our sites. Once there the drugs were counted by Reno Police Department officers and bagged. Then they were taken back to the Reno PD where they were destroyed by incineration.
The point of the Round Up was to highlight the prescription drug problem in our community, to keep potentially harmful out of the hands of those that they are not prescribed for, and to keep people for flushing them into our water system as a way of disposal. We believe that the event was a success and we plan to repeat it with all of our partners.
But I have a concern......
We gathered close to 40,000 pills, many of which are drugs that could be abused. I was staggered by the amount of drugs that came to the one site where I volunteered. As I watched the two officers document and identify the drugs that came in, I couldn't believe the sheer amount of pills and wondered, "What would happen if the wrong people had access to only a fraction of these drugs?"
Being raised by parents who grew up during the depression and who didn't waste anything, I am appalled at the sheer monetary value of these drugs and the waste of throwing them away. How much are they worth? How much would they be worth on the street? One woman chastised us for not using some of the drugs for poor people who can't afford medication. Doing what she suggested is out of the question for lots of reasons but I share her concern. What a waste! In our day and age of accelerating medical costs, especially prescription drug costs, it seems like we are aren't doing a very good job of keep these kinds of costs down!
Many of the people that came to us said that they had used one or two of the painkillers they had been prescribed but didn't want to take the rest. What happens when a patient doesn't need pain medication but it is prescribed anyway? Is there a reason that patients who don't seem to want or need this kind of medication should have it anyway?
Overall, my thoughts after it is all over is that I wasn't aware before of the sheer amount of in people's medicine cabinets. I have been thinking that 40,000 pills are just the proverbial tip of the ice berg that indicates something much more dangerous is below the surface, something we need to be aware of and be willing to take action on. While most of these drugs will never be abused, I have heard enough stories of homes burglarized for drugs or visitors rifling through their unsuspecting host's medicine cabinet that I believe some of these drugs could find their way into the wrong hands.
The drugs that were turned in last Saturday by responsible citizens will never be abused by anyone because they will be destroyed. But what about the other pills and otherwise legitimate prescription drugs? That is what the Round Up and other activities that we are planning are intended to address.
Stick around and we'll keep you posted on next steps. Better yet, why don't you get involved in helping us with this important and timely work?