The East County Youth Coalition (ECYC) students from Mt. Miguel High School are promoting the April 27 National Prescription Drug Take Back Day by partnering with local East County pharmacies in an effort to reduce access to dangerous and sometimes deadly prescription drugs.
“Once we heard about all the tragic deaths because of opioids, we wanted to do something about it to help,” high school junior Angelica Romero said. “We thought more people should know about the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) National Drug Take Back Day and so we decided to go to the pharmacies.”
Misuse and abuse of prescription drugs have serious consequences for the health and safety of San Diego County residents. According to the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force (PDATF) there were 1,277 unintentional opioid deaths from 2013- 2017.
“On April 27, you have the opportunity to save a life and keep the environment clean,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Karen Flowers. “Instead of leaving unwanted prescription pills unsecured or throwing them in the trash or down a toilet, you can bring them to a DEA Take Back Day location and DEA will properly dispose of them for you. It’s anonymous and free.”
Surveys show this is not just an adult problem. Ten percent of San Diego County 11th-graders reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons in their lifetime, according to the 2017 California Healthy Kids Survey, compared to 14 percent in 2015.
ECYC efforts involve securing commitments from pharmacy personnel to distribute flyers to their customers to promote the DEA’s national event. So far, two stores have agreed to help and youth members are hoping to recruit more. The idea is to keep unwanted medication out of the house either through year-round collection boxes or during the twice-a-year Take Back events.
ECYC began more than 15 years ago as a program of the Institute for Public Strategies East County Project. It has more than 20 members from Spring Valley, Lemon Grove, Casa de Oro and other East County schools who work together in their communities to improve neighborhood quality of life by preventing substance abuse.
“The youth group is an incredible way for young people to increase community relations, public speaking skills and understand how to impact positive community change,” youth group coordinator Stelle Andrade said. “All are welcome to join us to stop drug abuse and underage drinking.”
“Youth group members believe that this event will help get prescription medication out of the hands of those who might otherwise abuse them. “More than 38,000 pounds of pills were collected by drop off and sheriff’s collection boxes in San Diego County in 2017, according to the most recent PDATF Report Card.
“We want people to know they need to properly dispose of unused medication as soon as possible, not in the trash or down a toilet,” Andrade said.
East County students can get involved in alcohol and other drug prevention work and/or policy work by contacting the Institute for Public Strategies East County Project at (619) 476- 9100 x119.
To learn more information on efforts underway to combat misuse and abuse of prescription drugs in San Diego County visit www.SanDiegoRxAbuseTaskForce.org.