NASHVILLE (WKRN) – More than 50 percent of teens who abuse opioids said they had access to a family member’s or friend’s prescriptions. Opioid overdose killed more than 1,200 teens in Tennessee last year.
Doctors are urging parents to lockup prescription opioids and safely dispose of any leftover narcotic prescription pain medication to prevent the abuse of the drugs by teens.
Dr. David Edwards at Vanderbilt University Medical Center specializes in pain medicine.
“As a physician and as educators, we don’t always educate our patients to the potential dangers that opioids are in the home,” he said. “Parents and family members need to think of this as an equivalent in the home to a loaded gun.”
Dr. Edwards said there are very important uses for narcotic pain pills.
“After surgery and for certain cancer treatments pain medication can be essential,” he explained.
But there is an abundance of excess opioids in homes, according to Dr. Edwards, because of over prescribing of prescription pain medication.
“The access to free opioids in the home because of over prescribing contributes to the opioid deaths,” stated Dr. Edwards.
In 2014, more people in Tennessee died because of opioid overdoses than were killed in accidental shootings or car crashes.
Anti-drug coalitions across the state are providing lockboxes for parents and others to secure their medications.
This helps restrict access to pills and better prevent the abuse of the drug by teens and others.
“Our goal with these is to get them into the hands of everyone in Williamson County,” Coordinator of the Williamson County Anti-Drug Coalition Alex Windings said. “We have been really trying to get them into the hands of grandparents because statistically older people have more pills.”
The lockboxes are able to be locked and bolted to counters or in cabinets. The effort is part of the “Count it! Lock It! Drop It!” campaign.
According to experts, people who abuse opioids tend to move to heroine when the pills stop providing a high or if their access to the narcotic prescription pills is blocked.
Cory Zuccaro went down that path after he started abusing narcotic prescription pain medications at the age of 21.
“I couldn’t understand why I was so addicted to it,” he said. “I couldn’t understand why it felt so good even though it was making me feel so bad the next day.”
Zuccaro started using heroine when he couldn’t afford the prescription pills anymore. The first time he took a hit of heroine he overdosed and his heart stopped.
“I sniffed two bags and I remember saying to myself, ‘That is a lot of heroine I did’,” he told News 2. “I woke up in the hospital on life support.”
Zuccaro recovered, but continued to use drugs until getting treatment. He is now in recovery and drug free for more than 11 years.
He is a treatment specialist at Addiction Campuses.
The organization provides comprehensive illegal drug, prescription drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs in facilities across the country.
They run a 24 hour, 7 days a week hotline at 1-888-614-2251. There is also a confidential chat available at the Addiction Campuses’ website.
For more information about lockboxes and what is available in your county, click here.
There are also a number of safe locations to drop off unwanted prescription medicine.