By: Katie Sobiech
When hearing the words “drug abuse,” prescription drugs may not be one of the first things that come to mind, but the Summit County Community Partnership (SCCP) is aware that prescription drug abuse is a large and growing issue.
“We know that one of the fastest growing groups of addicted people are those who are using prescription drugs not prescribed for themselves in many cases,” Darryl Brake, Executive Director of the Summit County Community Partnership, said.
Research has shown that many individuals with the problem are abusing left-over pills from prescriptions for themselves or from friends or family.
“When we get prescription drugs, a lot of times they’re not used up and we’re healthy again. But some think it’s a good idea to hang onto those in case they have the problem again. The drug is then available. The problem with that is that those that are addicted to prescription drugs get them a number of different ways. One of which is from family and friends, either by asking for them or stealing them,” Brake explained.
Prescription drug abuse is extremely problematic in Summit County.
“One of the techniques that is used is that (the addict) either gets a doctor who will write a fake prescription for them – there are doctors who do that – or they go to places called ‘pill mills’ where pills are sold wholesale. That’s illegal, but there are places in southern Ohio where that is prevalent. Others are stealing them from houses,” Brake explained.
Brake shares one shocking story of a young man who did anything to keep his addiction alive.
“There was a young man addicted to prescription drugs since the age of 15. When I heard about it he was 18 and in recovery. He would go to open houses and when the real estate agent was showing the house to adults and potential buyers, he would dress up in a nice shirt and tie, look through the house and he’d go to the houses of seniors who often have a lot of pills. He went through the bedrooms and bathrooms and in a very clever way he would take pills out of the medicine cabinet. That’s how he fueled his addiction for years,” Brake said.
Many addicts don’t care what measures they have to take to get their drug, even at the expense of someone else.
Another issue that has flared up in the news in the past year or so is the abuse of bath salts.
These laboratory produced synthetic drugs were initially sold in convenience stores, and then wherever people would buy them.
“They’re labeled as ‘bath salts’ or ‘plant food’ and some people know that stuff is never going to hit the water. They’re going to snort it, inject it, or lace it in some tobacco or marijuana and smoke it. Bath salts are so addictive that people usually get addicted the first or second time they use them,” Brake said.
In 2011 SCCP had a Bath Salt Summit at Summa Health System to educate the public on just how dangerous this habit is.
“We’re active in educating and staying on top of that,” Brake said.
Shortly after the summit, store owners began pulling the salts from their shelves.
Unfortunately, addicts found another route to take.
“Heroin, at the time, had a street value that was almost as low as it’s ever been in this century, so those people that were addicted to bath salts, when they couldn’t get that, they switched over to heroine because it was cheaper. And the heroin problem began to rise. Coalitions track that stuff. We take measures to fight the problem,” Brake said.
So far they’ve seen successes in their battle against this issue.
They’ve also gotten alcoholic energy drinks pulled off the shelves of gas stations.
Educating the Public
“We’re educating people on what’s going on,” Brake said.
They are also sending a strong message to the public:
- Lock up your prescription drugs.
- If you have drugs that are no longer being used DO NOT save them!
- DO NOT throw drugs away in the trash. Don’t put it in kitty litter and throw the kitty litter away and do not flush them down the toilet because both of those activities will lead to contamination of our drinking water.
“We will all be messed up [if we do that],” Brake warns.
“People need to turn the drugs in,” he continued.
Turning Drugs In
There are two ways to turn in unused drugs in Summit County. The Summit County Health Department has 14 permanent drug turn-in sites, where one can take unused or outdated drugs, listed on their website.
“You drop the drugs in there and the Sheriff’s Department picks them up and takes them to a place where they are disposed of in an environmentally safe way,” Brake explained.
Also, twice a year the Drug Enforcement Agency will pay for all communities that host a “Prescription Drug Take Back Day.”
“We do it at the main bus station in downtown Akron. People can drive in and we have agents and officers there,” Brake said.
Northeast, Ohio has 81 sites on those days.
For more information on SCCP’s upcoming events, visit their website: http://www.summitcountycommunitypartnership.org
Watch for next week’s story on the Medical Marijuana Movement, a new problem that’s surfacing, and how the faith community and others are working together to combat this.
If you have any story ideas, questions, or comments you can contact: Katie@akroneur.com.