Prescription drug abuse is the elephant in the room

Contributing writerNovember 13, 2013 

What weighs the same as one elephant, seven grand pianos, 16 gorillas, an average orca whale, 15 harbor seals, or 655 housecats? The amount of unwanted prescription medication that was collected and safely disposed of last year in Thurston County: 5,567 pounds of unwanted prescription medication, to be precise.

The secure medicine take-back program is a partnership between local police departments, the Thurston County Sheriff, Group Health Cooperative, and the Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department. Secure prescription medicine drop-boxes are located at the Lacey Police Department, Thurston County Courthouse Building 3, Tumwater Police Department, Yelm Police Department, Tenino City Hall, Rainier City Hall, and Group Health.

The sites accept prescription medications, medication samples, pet medications, medicated ointments or lotions, inhalers and liquid medications in glass or leak-proof containers. Controlled substances are not accepted at Group Health, but are at other locations. Take over-the-counter medications to HazoHouse. Please note that none of the locations accepts needles, thermometers, bloody or infectious wastes, or wastes from medical businesses. But the medicine take-back program is just one of several partnerships in our community that help prevent drug abuse. TOGETHER! – a local nonprofit that mobilizes families, schools and the community to advance the health, safety and success of youth – worked with the Partnership at to train interested community partners in Rx360 Washington, aimed at stopping the spread of prescription drug abuse. Sixty people from multiple counties have become community educators presenting a two-fold message:

• Talk with youth (your own children, or young people in your life) about preventing prescription drug abuse.

• Spread the message to Secure, Monitor, and Dispose of prescription drugs to family, friends, and associates to stem the supply. Many people abusing prescription drugs get them free, or buy or steal them from a friend or relative.

According to the Healthy Youth Survey, abuse of prescription opiates is down among youth in school. This is an encouraging trend, and a reminder to remain vigilant, because we also know transition-aged youth (18-25 years old) abuse prescription drugs more than any other age group.

Synthetic drugs, meth, and heroin are also drugs with trends that we would be wise to keep an eye on. And we must continue to work to support wellness in our community through strong partnerships and a shared vision of health and hope. Continued partnership and work in our community will continue to make a difference.

For more information:

• To learn facts about the most commonly abused drugs and alcohol:

• To learn about local resources, the Thurston Mason Crisis Clinic is available 24/7 by phone at 360-586-2800 or online at • Check out TOGETHER! at • Visit the county’s page, including a link to medicine take-back locations, at

• To get updated information on prevention, treatment, recovery, and mentoring, follow @PreventionRecov on Twitter

Dr. Diana T. Yu is the Health Officer for Thurston and Mason counties. Reach her at 360-867-2501, or @yu4health on Twitter.

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