More than 800 New Hampshire families are getting lock boxes and safe disposal bags in hopes of keeping youth away from prescription drugs and making a small dent in a big problem.
Officials from the Capital Area Public Health Network and the Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative of New Hampshire said Tuesday they will be distributing the boxes and bags at community events and recovery-friendly workplaces in Concord and two dozen surrounding towns. Parents can request them directly from the organizations, said Annika Stanley-Smith, the network’s director of substance misuse prevention.
She said prevention is an important part of addressing the state’s opioid crisis, and the new initiative builds on other programs, such as the periodic drug take-back days when police departments collect prescription medication.
“Prevention can’t just be one event at one time. Prevention needs to happen every day and everywhere. We need to stack up protective factors,” she said. “We want to meet people where they’re at.”
A study published in July involving more than 18,000 high school seniors found that about 11 percent reported misusing prescription medication in the past year. Within that group, nearly half said they had multiple sources for the drugs, including family members, friends with prescriptions and other sources that led back to prescription drugs in the home, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. A second study published in the same journal examined the source of prescription drugs misused by nearly 104,000 adolescents ages 12 to 17. The most common sources were family members, friends and prescriptions written for previous conditions. About 30 percent of those misusing the drugs took them from their home medicine cabinets.
Sean Esteban McCabe, the studies’ author, said Tuesday more than 90% of American households that contain controlled substances are easily accessible to youth. Evidence is building that offering families cost-effective ways of safe prescription drug disposal methods is an effective in reducing the amount of leftover medications, he said in an email.
“New Hampshire is taking an important step in educating families about the importance of proper storage and disposal of controlled substances,” said McCabe, a professor at the University of Michigan Center for the Study of Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking and Health.
In New Hampshire, which has been among the states hardest hit by the opioid crisis, a recent survey by the public health network found that more than 80 percent of youth in the Concord region had easy access to prescription drugs. The initiative announced Tuesday was one of many efforts to address the crisis, along with a new hub-and-spoke model called “The Doorway-NH” in which hospitals and others work with local providers to ensure that help is less than an hour away anywhere in the state. Multiple fire departments also have created “Safe Stations” to direct people to treatment and services.
In Nashua, Fire Chief Brian Rhodes said Tuesday that as of last week, the city had seen a 3 percent decrease in fatal overdoses in the last year, compared to the previous year.
“I think we are seeing some successes, but I don’t know if we can pinpoint any one thing,” he said.
He said he may be difficult to measure the success of efforts like distributing the lock boxes, but said he absolutely thinks such an approach is worth it.
“We did not get into this crisis overnight, and we’re not going to get over it overnight, but I think educating our youth to the dangers of prescription drugs is critical for their survival,” he said.