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From left are Loren Cain, a prevention intervention worker; Pam Hall, a substance abuse specialist; and intern Emily Tyson. They work together from an office inside Manchester High.

Unused Medications Can Lead To Trouble

Note: This story originally was published in September 2015 but we are bringing it back to the fore as the district prepares to recognize 'Red Ribbon Week,' which is Oct. 23-31.

Prescription drugs can provide welcome relief for people suffering pain of all sorts.

But these drugs can also create all sorts of pain – especially when unwanted or unused medication gets in the hands of teenagers.

“Prescription medication that remains in medicine cabinets in the home is likely to be abused, misused and trafficked,” said Pam Hall, substance abuse specialist for Manchester Public Schools. “Raising awareness is crucial.”

With National Drug Take Back Day approaching, Hall is determined to get the word out about the dangers that medications can present when not used by the appropriate people with a specific intent.

“This is a serious problem,” said Hall, who works with students throughout the school district providing substance abuse prevention and intervention services. “And this is more than a local problem. This is a crisis that affects people throughout the country.”

The Manchester Police Department has permanently installed a Prescription Drug Take Back Box in the lobby of its headquarters at 239 East Middle Turnpike. The drop box is accessible 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

“Heroin use is on the rise in Connecticut and affects all demographics,” said Sgt. Rob Stanford, who is also based at MHS as the supervisor of the town’s school resource officers. He said the drop box is a key component of its strategy “to help rid households of the excess prescription pain medications that often times lead to the abuse of this illicit drug.”

Hall said that the group of people most likely to abuse and misuse prescription medication are teenagers. She cites as evidence data from the National Center for Health Statistics, which says that 1 in 5 American teens has abused prescriptions drugs. 

“They often believe that prescriptions are a ‘safe high,’” Hall said.

She added that many people who become addicted to prescription opioid painkillers may be driven to use illicit substances such as heroin, which have similar effects.

Data by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicates that 4 out of 5 heroin users started abusing prescription drugs first. Death from heroin overdose in the U.S. has almost tripled between 2010 and 2013.

Items accepted for the Drug Take Back include prescription medications, over the counter medications, vitamins, pet medications, inhalers and medicine samples. Items not allowed include needles/lancets/syringes, liquid medications of any kind, thermometers, aerosol cans, empty containers, bloody or infectious waste, personal care products (non-medicated shampoo etc.), hydrogen peroxide and business waste.

The program is for residential use only.

“It’s been said before, and it’s true – if this program can save one life it will have been worth it,” Hall said. “Getting these drug out of our homes will make the children of Manchester safer.”

Manchester Public Schools 45 North School St, Manchester, CT 06042

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