Every day an averge of 2,000 teenagers use prescription drugs without the guidance of a physician.
That statistic from the Centers for Disease Control indicates what local law enforcement officials, chemical dependency counselors and criminal prosecutors already know.
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has estimated 48 million people who are 12 years of age and older have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons, which represents approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population. Subsequently, there has also been a dramatic rise in accidental overdoses, emergency room visits and fatalities.
The Redwood Falls Police Department, working in conjunction with the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department, has been providing one solution in an effort to prevent this issue.
It’s called a drug take back program, and it allows the public the opportunity to have those prescription drugs in their medicine cabinets they are no longer using properly destroyed.
“This is a federal program through the DEA, and the best part is there is no cost to the people of Redwood County,” said Mark Farasyn of the Redwood County Sheriff’s Department.
Farasyn and Jason Cotner of the Redwood Falls Police Department have been working on the project together, and they are offering the chance for the public to drop off those prescription drugs they no longer need this coming Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the Law Enforcement Center in Redwood Falls.
Called the National Drug Take Back Initiative, local law enforcement is participating in the program for the third time, and each past program has seen good participation.
According to Cotner, there is a myth in the public about prescriptions drugs.
“People believe because a doctor prescribed them they must be safe,” said Cotner.
The reality is while prescription drugs may not be in the same classification as co-caine or heroin, they are still addictive and if used incorrectly pose the same kind of threat any controlled substance would present.
Is prescription drug abuse a problem in Redwood County?
Cotner said when he began his role with local law enforcement he was surprised at just how much of an issue it was here.
Steve Collins, Red-wood County attorney, agreed, adding he surmised 40 percent of the cases his offices has been handling since he started as county attorney in 2011 have been related to prescription drug crimes.
Prescription drug abuse falls under the Minnesota statute that addresses controlled substance crimes, and those who are arrested can face felony charges based on the level of abuse.
So, where are abusers getting these drugs?
Statistics show those abusers are getting them from other friends or family members, and many times the elderly are the most susceptible to having someone take the drugs they have on hand.
Page 2 of 3 - “The drugs can be easily accessed,” said Cotner, adding younger people are often taking them from their grandparents.
At times those younger people then take the drugs they have stolen and use them, or they may try and sell them to others.
Part of the issue, said Collins, is at times these teens are taking drugs having no idea what they are and what they might do to them.
Another avenue of distribution is the sale of those drugs by those who have been prescribed the medication by a physician.
While selling those drugs may appear to be a lucrative option, the reality is when someone gets caught they are going to face very serious criminal charges, especially if someone gets sick or dies as a result of their abuse.
While one may be-lieve use of prescription drugs is “not so bad,” especially when one compares it to drugs like cocaine and heroin, statistics show prescription drug abuse is considered a gateway to something more potent, and Cotner, Farasyn and Collins all agree it is likely a major reason there has been such a dramatic in-crease in heroin use in Redwood County.
Cotner said the drug take back initiative is one way that is be-lieved to help stem the increase in use of other drugs. Once the drugs have been dropped off at the law enforcement center they remain under the watchful eye of law enforcement, and Farasyn said at a later date those prescription drugs collected are going to be taken to another location where they are incinerated.
Cotner said those who may not be able to get their unused and unwanted prescription drugs to law enforcement this Saturday can do something to ensure those drugs would not be abused. There are plenty of options to render them useless, such as putting them in a bag with something like dish soap.
Collins said what people should never do is dump them down the drain, as those drugs can get into the water and cause other issues for the public.
The drug take back program only allows for medications to be dropped off.
Other medical supplies, such as syringes or similar sharps are not being accepted.
It is not necessary to drop off over the counter drugs, either.
Every bottle of pills is sealed as it is dropped off, said Farasyn, and he said while it is not necessary one can cover up or remove the identification label if they want to.
Many of the drugs have some sort of mark on them, such as a number or trademark that one can use to identify just what kind of drug it is.
Drugs, such as OxyContin and Vicodin, Xanax and Adderall, are some of the most abused drugs.
Page 3 of 3 - An addict is going to take whatever they can to achieve that “high” they desire, and those who are looking for prescription drugs are willing to do whatever they need to in order to get them. It is a good idea to keep those prescription drugs in places where they are not easily accessed if one is still using them in the properly prescribed manner, and it is also a good idea if those drugs are no longer needed to drop them off at the law enforcement center this Saturday.
If you would like more information about the program, contact Farasyn, at (507) 637-4026 or Cotner at (507) 637-4005.