\Vermonters are tough, generous and caring people. We pull together in the wake of a crisis and we’re always ready to extend a helping hand. Vermonters are quick to share skills and resources with one another in astounding ways. Sharing is a form of caring and it’s a contagious value in our small communities. When we see a Vermonter hurting we rush to their side with home-cooked meals and encouraging words but, even in Vermont, there are times when sharing just isn’t the right thing to do.
Many of us need to be reminded that it’s illegal to share our prescription medications, even when we think it’s for the right reasons. Prescription drugs can be dangerous at any dose, which is why they must be prescribed by a doctor. Ideally, your doctor asks a series of questions to determine the medication which will work best for you. Approximately one-third of individuals taking prescription drugs not prescribed for them experience side effects. Prescription drugs when taken properly can have therapeutic effects on the body, but, produce detrimental affects when misused.
Prescription drug abuse and misuse has become a spotlight of concern nationally. The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs is greater than those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined. According to Vermont Department of Health Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn,
Perhaps the most distressing data around prescription drug abuse and misuse is the behavior of our youth. The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that 20 percent of Windham County high school students have said they’ve used a prescription pain reliever or stimulant which was not prescribed to them. Some teens have admitted to misusing prescription drugs, but can identify only the color of the pill. Due to the fact that prescription drugs, when used as prescribed, can improve one’s health, many teens believe they are a safe way to get high. What often begins as a casual experiment or a helpful sharing may quickly become years of pain and addiction.
Prescription medications can be very addictive -- for some that addiction can begin with just a few pills. Painkillers share the same chemical structure as heroin, so they have similar effects on the body. Both drugs force your brain to release dopamine -- a hormone your body produces when you’re doing something you enjoy. Addicts never begin using prescription medications with the intention of becoming an addict, but when they experience the pleasure of a dopamine release they find themselves wanting more.
There’s a solution to this growing concern and it’s one in which we can all participate: Be aware. Don’t share. Parents and guardians, please talk with your children about the dangers of sharing and taking medications without a prescription. Prevent others from abusing your medications by securing your meds in places inaccessible to children and guests in your home. Visit LockYourMeds.org to learn more about securing your medications in your home. Don’t take prescriptions unless your doctor prescribes them to you and properly dispose of your unused and expired medications.
BAPC is pleased to announce that we have recently provided permanent prescription drug drop boxes to the Brattleboro Police Department and the Windham County Sheriff’s Department. Medications in pill form can be disposed in these boxes year round. National Take Back Day is Saturday, Sept. 29, and a convenient opportunity to dispose of your medications. You have the knowledge and responsibility of preventing your medications from getting into the wrong hands. For more information on the prevention of prescription drug misuse, disposal options, and Take-Back Day locations in Windham County visit BrattleboroAreaPreventionCoalition.org and become a part of the solution.
Shannon Albritton is the communications coordinator for the Brattleboro Area Prevention Coalition and "Matters of Substance" is a collaborative column of the BAPC, a comprehensive community effort to prevent and reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug abuse in Windham Southeast area. The next coalition meeting is Friday, September 14th at 12 p.m and all are welcome. Please visit the BrattleboroAreaPreventionCoalition.org or call 802-257-2175 for more information on our prevention efforts.