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New Coalition Hopes to Limit Prescription Drug Abuse Among Christian County Teens

Last year, Missourians brought in more than 12,000 pounds of medication during the national Drug Enforcement Agency’s take-back day. This was an opportunity for folks to properly dispose of their unused or expired medications. A new organization called the “Reduce the Abuse Christian County Coalition” has extended this opportunity to Christian County residents on a daily basis, with a new “drop-box” so residents can dispose of unused medicine year-round.

“We have prescription, non-prescription medication that is probably old, unused, unwanted. And we need to get rid of it because we don’t want it to fall into the hands of our teenagers or someone else.”

Officer Brent Forgey, the chair of this coalition, says that the primary goal of the program is to limit the number of prescription drugs in circulation among local teens. During the unveiling of the “drop box” at the Nixa Police Department, he said that prescription drug abuse recently started being a major problem in the community.

“We realized around three years ago, that we had three teenage fatalities due to prescription drug overdoses within a five-month period, one being a pregnant teen, so I guess you could say that was four. The next year, we lost a high school football player, again to a prescription drug overdose.”

Timmarie Hamilton, Prevention Specialist at Community Partnerships of the Ozarks, cites availability as the primary reason pharmaceuticals have come to be the second most used substance among teenagers, after marijuana.

“It’s in their homes, it’s in their friend’s homes, their grandparent’s [homes] so it’s easy to get. And also they don’t see it as illegal, they see it as ‘well, if it’s a prescription it must be safer’”

She says that there has even been a trend of so-called “pharm parties” where kids bring prescription drugs to share and trade with their friends.

“And then those pills are all dumped into a big bowl together and then they will just take a handful or so many pills and just take them all at one time. So when their taking them they’re not knowing what they are taking. And so if someone has a really bad reaction to that they may not be able—emergency rooms aren’t knowing how to react because they don’t know what pills the kids are taking."

Hamilton says that these drop boxes are the only truly safe way to dispose of prescription and non-prescription drugs, as flushed drugs can enter the water system and contaminate groundwater and drugs that are thrown in the trash run the risk of being picked out by thieves, pets, or even wildlife.

The drop box in the Nixa Police Department will be available for use during regular weekly hours which are 8:30 to 4:30, Monday through Friday.

For KSMU News, I’m Emma Wilson.