Click on one of the links below to view information and locations for Operation Medicine Cabinet Clean Out on Saturday, April 30.
Lifetime Non-Medical Use of Painkillers in Fairfax County Students (8th-12th Grade)
Lifetime Non-Medical Use of Other Prescription Drugs in Fairfax County Students (8th-12th Grade)
Prescription drug abuse is a national problem affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Teens and young adults are especially susceptible to prescription drug abuse.
Prescription drug abuse is defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as “the use of a medication without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience or feelings elicited.” NIDA notes that several national surveys have reported that prescription medications, such as those used to treat pain, attention deficit disorders and anxiety, are being abused at a rate second only to marijuana among illicit drug users.
The abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem and has become an epidemic, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs like cocaine, data from the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) show that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time began by using a prescription drug non-medically.
The problem has become an urgent one as prescription drug abuse is increasingly deadly. The CDC reports that on average 46 people each day die from opioid prescription drug overdoses and another 1,150 more arrive in emergency rooms. Fairfax County is not immune to this problem.
Young adults and teens are turning to prescription for a variety reasons, as seen by the examples below.
Most Commonly Abused Prescription Drugs
There are three kinds of prescription drugs that are commonly abused. Visit the NIDA pages to learn more about each of these classes of drugs;
Prescription drugs are legal to use for those who are prescribed them, which makes the way that teenagers and young adults access and use them different than other substances that are illegal.
Prescription Opioids: Leading Factor in Heroin Abuse
The two most commonly abused pain medications are Oxycontin and Vicodin. Abuse of these drugs, when taken in ways other than prescribed, can have effects similar to heroin and be a first step toward heroin use. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly half of young people who inject heroin reported abusing prescription opioids before starting use of heroin. Many individuals reported that heroin was cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids. In addition, it was reported that crushing these prescription pills to snort or inject the powder was the initiation into using these methods of drug administration, much like heroin delivery.
There are ways to safely dispose of your medications. Please NEVER flush medication down the toilet or drain unless you are specifically instructed to do so. You can dispose of expired and unused prescription and over-the-counter drugs safely and easily at home. Follow these easy directions.
You can also contact your local pharmacy to purchase a postage-paid medication disposal envelope for about $5 or participate in a community take-back event.
Why proper disposal is important:
In the fall of 2014, both the governor of Virginia and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors appointed task forces to study the related problems of prescription drug and heroin abuse.
Staff and members of the Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County (UPC) are involved in the countywide task force to examine the problem and come up with a strategic plan. In December 2014 the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Human Services Committee received a report on prescription drug and heroin abuse in Fairfax County from Police Captain Paul Cleveland and Prevention Manager Jesse Ellis (Neighborhood and Community Services).
The “Prescription drug and heroin abuse in Fairfax County” report reviewed recent trends and discussed the county's strategy for ongoing prevention efforts. The report also includes national, state and local data on prescription drug and heroin abuse, with findings that "clearly support the government’s declaration of a prescription drug and heroin epidemic." To see the report, click here.
A Fairfax County Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse Prevention Strategic Action Plan is being developed within a framework of five strategic areas:
As the county’s plan evolves, coordination with federal initiatives and the work of the Virginia Governor’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse will be necessary to avoid duplication and ensure complementary approaches; the five focus areas listed above replicate those of the Task Force.
*Fairfax County data and tables are from The Fairfax County Youth Survey Report School year 2013-2014 at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/youthsurvey.
Table 39. Lifetime Prevalence of Non-medical Use of Painkillers, by Selected Demographic Characteristics, Fairfax County, 2011 and 2013 (Values are percentages)
Table 43. Lifetime Prevalence of Non-medical Use of Other Prescription Drugs, by Selected Demographic Characteristics, Fairfax County, 2011 and 2013 (Values are percentages)
Because prescription medicine abuse is a national epidemic and a growing problem among Fairfax County youth, the Unified Prevention Coalition has mobilized with collaborative partners to decrease youth access to opioid medications through a range of education actions and a focus on disposal activities. This concern has grown with the realization that our older teens in high school may be moving from opioid medicines to heroin use, similar to other parts of the country.
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The Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County (UPC) and this website are partially funded by a Virginia Strategic Prevention Framework - State Incentive Grant (SPF-SIG) and a federal SAMHSA Sober Truth on Preventing Underage Drinking grant (STOP). UPC is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization with more than 60 partners and members from the community