What You Can Do To Reduce Drug Overdoses in Maryland

Guest Blog on Maryland Nonprofits website by Joan Webb Scornaienchi, Executive Director, HC DrugFree; Nonprofit Member of Maryland Nonprofits

HC DrugFree, a nonprofit in Howard County, MD, provides prevention, treatment, recovery, health and wellness resources to help Howard County residents develop knowledge and skills to understand and address behavioral health disorders. This week, on behalf of the Howard County Opioid Coalition, HC DrugFree launched a new campaign called “In the KNOW about Opioid Misuse”. For more information or to view their new video, visit www.intheknowhc.org

In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day on August 31, 2015, National Recovery Month throughout September, and his priority of preventing substance use and overdose deaths, Governor Larry Hogan declared the week of Sunday, August 30 to Saturday, September 5 to be Overdose Awareness Week in Maryland.

In 2014, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) reported 1,039 drug and alcohol-related overdose deaths in the State. Overdose Awareness Week highlights the significance of this public health crisis and seeks to create public awareness of the issue and the important work being done by local health departments and many other organizations.

We keep hearing about the heroin epidemic in our State and that makes so many of us feel helpless (and silently wonder why anyone would ever try heroin for the first time). We shouldn’t feel helpless!  Because heroin use often begins with misusing legal (and often truly needed) prescription pain medications, the good news is that a commitment by each of us to remove or secure our medications can reduce heroin use and deaths in neighborhoods across Maryland.

Here’s what you can do today: 

1.      Properly dispose of unwanted or expired medications! Many counties have convenient permanent medication collection boxes available 24/7 or their local police participate in National Drug Take Back Days such as the one scheduled for September 26, 2015. Why not just keep your old meds? Youth tell us they started down the long road of addiction by experimenting with the same prescription medications found in many of our homes. What’s in your medicine cabinet or kitchen drawer? What’s at Grandma’s house? What’s at your child’s friend’s house? Why not just toss medications into the trash instead of driving them to a collection site? Proper disposal keeps these medications out of our water sources! For more information about collection boxes in your county, contact your local Health Department. To find the closest police agency participating in National Drug Take Back Day on September 26, visit www.dea.gov.

2.      Secure your meds! If you need to keep prescription pain meds in your home, be sure to secure them in a safe place such as a locked safe, locked filing cabinet, or a secured medication box. I know your kids (or their friends) wouldn’t take pain medications just to enjoy the feeling! Isn’t that what all parents think until it’s too late? Medications in your bathroom cabinets or kitchen drawers are an invitation for someone in your family (or a friend or worker visiting your home) to misuse…and that frequently leads to addiction!

3.      Attend a FREE Opioid Overdose Response Training! Attend a training in your community if your child, spouse, friend or colleague is abusing opioids (prescription pain medicines such as Percocet or Vicodin, and street drugs such as heroin). If you are trained and have the medication on you, you could save someone from an opioid overdose. At many of these trainings, you will leave with 2 FREE doses of the easy to use medication. Contact your local Health Department for training times/locations.

4.      Trust your gut! Trust your gut if something is “off” with your child (or spouse, friend, sibling, colleague, etc.). My hope is that your loved ones are not using drugs, but if you do not address the underlying issues (bullying, sexual assault, mental health issues, etc.), your loved one may turn to drugs to self-medicate (or as the kids say “to feel numb”). Don’t go into denial. It pains me to hear young addicts talk about how no adult stepped in to help them when they were as young as 12 or 14 and just beginning to experiment. Step in…and keep stepping in. Be the safe place for the young (or old) people in your life.

Thank you, Governor Hogan, for tirelessly raising the issue of drug misuse in our great state and declaring this Overdose Awareness Week. The events of this week bring much needed media coverage and provide an opportunity for additional education…and hopefully open more doors for honest discussions.

Joan Webb Scornaienchi, the Executive Director of HC DrugFree, serves as the Howard County Substance Abuse Prevention Coordinator on behalf of the Howard County Health Department. She is the chair of the Howard County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Advisory Board and coordinator of the County’s Opioid Coalition. For more information about HC DrugFree, visit www.hcdrugfree.org.

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