Pill Stoppers fight growing trend

Austin Frye says drug abuse in high school has changed.

A rising junior at Newton-Conover High School, Frye said teens are going beyond “smoking pot” and are experimenting with drugs found in nearly every household – prescription medications.

“I have all these friends at high school doing these pills,” Frye said.

“There are a lot of drugs and a lot of pills. They are smoking cigarettes and trying prescription drugs.”

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid agrees that prescription drug abuse is becoming the No. 1 drug problem for area youth, but a new drug collection program led by teens themselves may help quell that growing trend.

The Foothills Coalition’s Operation Pill Stoppers is setting up permanent prescription drug drop boxes in six different locations throughout the county. The coalition will also hold several mobile events throughout the year to take back prescription medications and spread the word about the increasing trend for prescription drug abuse.

Because most youth obtain prescription drugs from medicine cabinets at home, more collection opportunities and public education will hopefully stop abuse, said Lynette Scott, community outreach coordinator for The Cognitive Connection Prevention Department.

“Drug abuse among teens is increasing, and these prescription drugs are widely accessible for kids at school,” Scott said. “A lot of kids believe prescription pills are OK because they are prescribed by a doctor, but they need to be under a doctor’s care.”

Since the teens are getting the drugs from home, Scott said adults should lock up their medicine or dispose of medications that are expired.

“They should throw away the prescription drugs that are expired, but throwing it down the toilet is a bad idea,” Scott said.

When pills are flushed down the toilet, the chemicals can get into the water stream and potentially, your drinking water.

The coalition will create drop box locations at the Claremont, Conover, Hickory, Newton and Maiden police departments, in addition to the Catawba County Sheriff’s Office.

On Monday, students from different high schools in the area helped Catawba County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Eric Kanipe count and transport 10 pounds of prescription drugs that have been collected throughout the two months.

The collected vitamins, opiates, stimulants and other prescription drugs are incinerated at the Animal Shelter because it is the closest and most economical option, Reid said. The pill bottles are also recycled.
Only law enforcement handles the actual drugs, and the coalition is funded through a grant from the state, Scott said. 

A growing trend

Frye was not the only teen talking about their pill-popping peers Monday, as coalition youth from nearly every area high school said they have seen prescription drugs abused.

About one in five teens nationwide have abused prescription pain medications before, and about 2,700 youth try non-prescribed drugs a day, according to the coalition. In total, 1.2 million people ages 12-17 die of prescription drug overdoses a year.

“Prescription drugs are becoming the No. 1 drug problem,” Reid said.
“Kids get them from home and take them to school. Parents don’t know what to do with (prescription drugs), but the best place to drop them off in a box.”

Frye said most of his peers get prescription drugs at home, and also urged citizens to properly dispose of the prescription pills.

“If you are not using them, bring them to us, and we’ll get rid of them,” Frye said. “It’s the safest thing.” 

Pull-out box

How to properly dispose: 

Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so. 

To dispose of prescription drugs not labeled to be flushed, you may be able to take advantage of the Pill Stoppers drop box locations at a near-by law enforcement agency. 

If no collection program is available: 

1. Before throwing it in the trash can, place the medication in a garbage bag filled with dirt or cat litter. 

2. Remove prescription labels from pill bottles to prevent fraud. 

3. Do not flush medication down the drain or toilet.