Frank Black doesn’t have any kids at home, but he has a curious Lab.
The detective trooper with the Washington State Patrol is scared to death that his dog, who chews anything and everything, will one day get into some inflammatories and keel over.
Black’s concern is compounded when human life is involved, especially with curious adolescents rummaging around in their parents’ medicine cabinets or the kitchen pantry.
An epidemic of prescription drug abuse has hit America over the last decade, and in large part it started at home.
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Black has seen helpless teenagers under arrest begging for help from law enforcement because they weren’t aware the opiod painkillers they popped on the side for relaxation would quickly lead to frequent heroin injections.
That’s why Black — assigned as a task force officer to the Tri-Cities Drug Enforcement Administration unit — wants people to know just how important it is to stop hoarding those extra hydrocodone pills from last year’s root canal or the depressants that were briefly needed to pull you out of that unusual funk.
He is coordinator of this Saturday’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day for the region.
The twice-yearly event, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offers safe, convenient and responsible means of disposing of prescription drugs. The service is free, and law enforcement and their community partners will not ask any questions.
Black believes the DEA Take Back Days can have a positive impact on heroin addiction and the high number of overdoses seen in the Mid-Columbia.
The majority of drugs in high schools these days are stolen from relatives or friends, then kept for personal use with their buddies or sold to help pad the teen’s pocket at $1 per milligram, or generally $10 for a 10mg opiate, he said.
Dropping off unused and unwanted prescription medications just may keep a talented student in school and put them on a path they should have access to, instead of letting them go down the dark road to addiction and the potential for an overdose or death, he said.
“Those (prescription drugs) need to go away. Don’t hold on to them for just in case,” Black told the Herald. “You can go back to the doctor super-simple for what you need.”
Dr. Amy Person, health officer of the Benton-Franklin Health District, said a recent survey showed that one in 20 eighth-graders is using a prescription drug that they weren’t prescribed. That number drops to one in 11 by the time they’re in 12th grade.
Last year, poison centers across the state fielded 250 calls about opiate poisonings in youth from newborn to age 12, and three-quarters of them were in toddlers, she said.
While teenagers are intentionally taking the pain pills, toddlers accidentally ingest pills and they can have much more serious consequences, Person said.
“Taking those drugs out of the house so that they don’t have access to them is a way to prevent the issue,” she said.
Collection sites in the Mid-Columbia this Saturday are:
▪ Kennewick Police Department, 211 W. Sixth Ave.
▪ Pasco Walmart, 4820 N. Road 68, which will be overseen by the Pasco Police Department
▪ Richland Police Department, 871 George Washington Way
▪ West Richland Police Department, 3805 W. Van Giesen St.
Officers will take pills and other solids, like pain patches. Liquids and needles cannot be accepted.
The agency, citing a 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, said 6.4 million Americans age 12 and over abuse prescription drugs — more than those who abuse cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and methamphetamine combined.
“Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, eclipsing deaths from motor vehicle crashes or firearms,” according to a news release from Special Agent Jodie Underwood of Seattle.
In the seven years since the DEA Take Back Days began, the Pacific Northwest events have removed more than 332,704 pounds, or 166.4 tons of medication from circulation, Underwood said.