The Washington State Attorney General's office describes prescription drug abuse as an epidemic in Washington state. It reports that there are more deaths annually from prescription drug abuse than from meth, cocaine, and heroine combined.
Whether it's OxyContin, Vicodin, Methadone or some other prescription for pain, young people are increasingly turning to prescription drugs as a means of experimentation - with serious if not deadly consequences.
- Tylor Runyon, 18, died from a drug overdose after attending a "pharm party," where kids take a large amount of drugs, likely without knowing what they were taking. (KOMO)
- Nine students at a Bremerton middle school were hospitalized after taken prescription drugs at school. (KOMO)
- John Gahagan lost his 17-year-old son to a drug overdose. (KOMO)
According to the state Department of Health's Healthy Youth Survey, about 8 percent of 12th graders used prescription pain medications to get high in the 30 days before they were surveyed in 2010.
Where are they getting the drugs? The Attorney General's Office reports that more than 47 percent of teens were getting the drugs from their friends for free; about 10 percent buy them from friends; and another 10 percent taken them from friends without asking.
Heather Hogan, who leads the Foothills Healthy Community Coalition (FHCC), said often young people find the drugs at home from family members who might have lost track of a prescription when they no longer need to take it. They bring them to "pharm parties" where the pills are dumped into a bowl and the teens experiment at will, not knowing what they're taking or what might happen.
So do you make a point of disposing of your leftover prescription drugs when you no longer need them? Or are they sitting in your medicine cabinet and after a while, you've forgotten what was in there?
If you're concerned a friend or family member might be abusing prescription drugs at home, you can bring your leftover prescription to the Buckley Police station at 132 S Cedar St. in Buckley for proper disposal, Hogan said, at all hours of the day.
For more information on proper drug disposal, visit this DEA page. Test your prescription drug IQ with this quiz from the Attorney General's Office. And stay tuned to Patch for more information about when that community presentation will be taking place.