As part of a national Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) event, the Pottawatomie Alliance Toward Community Health (PATCH) coordinated a prescription drug take-back day last weekend.

Note: An in-depth look at how Pottawatomie County groups are collaborating with state and national programs to battle prescription drug misuse by encouraging residents to give old or unused prescriptions to authorities instead of letting them remain easily accessible to drug abusers.

As part of a national Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) event, the Pottawatomie Alliance Toward Community Health (PATCH) coordinated a prescription drug take-back day last weekend.

Collections from participants in Oklahoma were tallied at 916 pounds, according to a list of participating agencies made available by the U.S. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

The program reported an increase in collections nationwide.

“We had an incredible turnout for National Pharmaceutical Take Back this April,” Lisa Sullivan, Oklahoma's diversion program manager at the U.S. Department of Justice DEA division, said. “This year we collected 35,788 pounds of unwanted pharmaceuticals.”

She said last September 27,477 pounds were collected. “The numbers keep increasing as the word gets out about this program,” she said. “We anticipate that the next event will be in September/October.”



“Our coalition collected 38 pounds; we did very well,” Lisa Watson, grant coordinator at Gateway for Prevention and Recovery in Shawnee, said.

Shawnee's disposal site was set up as a drive-thru site in the horseshoe drive in front of the Shawnee Senior Center at 401 N. Bell.

“We think it's easier since it has a drive-thru capability,” Holly Gordon, communities of excellence coordinator for Pottawatomie County, said.

Gordon said the events are really important in how they tackle an epidemic that affects families like no other.

At the national spring event, Pott. County groups collaborated with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, Gordon said.

“We try to have collections like these in the spring and fall; in the fall is the Federal one,” she said.


A local problem

In 2011, Gateway to Prevention and Recovery received a 4-year Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Strategic Prevention Framework State Incentive Grant (SPF SIG) to address the problem of non-medical use of prescription (Rx) drugs in Pottawatomie County.

A factor identified as influencing the non-medical use of Rx drugs in the county was easy access to prescription drugs.

Watson said one of the ways the community can address the issue is to get unused or outdated prescriptions off the streets and out of the hands of those who would misuse them.

Kate Joyce, executive director at the Shawnee Senior Center, said, “The project is a great deal. Prescription drug abuse has one of the highest rates in preventable accidental deaths. This is a way we can help take away the temptation for some by getting these drugs out of commission.”

Potential causes for misuse of prescription medications vary, whether it’s accidental or becomes on purpose.

Joyce said leaving old or unused drugs laying around can become a source of confusion for some seniors who mistakenly take them, thinking they are something else, or forget they took them and take them again.

Gordon said it’s common for someone to get hurt, get a prescription and then become addicted.

Whatever the reason, the problem is real.

In the late 1990s, the most common cause of overdose deaths became prescription drugs, and four out of five unintentional poisoning deaths involve at least one prescription drug, according to

According to recent studies, the state –– and Pottawatomie County –– continues to struggle with the issue.

Trilbya Anderson, community wellness educator at St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital, said, “Every three years our hospital conducts a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA). In 2012, our CHNA identified that prescription drug abuse was one of the top health-related issues in our community. In our CHNA, that will be released in 2016, we have found that prescription drug abuse is one of the top three concerns in our service area.”

On the medical side, Anderson said, “St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital works in collaboration with Gateway to Prevention, Pottawatomie County Health Department and local pharmacies to provide information and resources on prescription drug abuse, how to safely store and use medication in the home and how to dispose of unused medications.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, drug disposal guidelines state, “Don’t flush expired or unwanted prescription and over-the-counter drugs down the toilet or drain unless the label or accompanying patient information specifically instructs you to do so.”

In cities where residences are connected to wastewater treatment plants, drugs poured down the sink or flushed can pass through the treatment system and enter rivers and lakes. … Water treatment plants are generally not equipped to routinely remove medicines, the site said.

The EPA said the first choice is to take advantage of drug take-back events.


By the numbers

From 2007-2012, in data gathered for Pottawatomie County deaths, reports:

• There were 75 UP deaths.

• Pott. County ranked 25 in the highest UP drug overdose death rate out of the 77 counties in the state.

• Seven out of 10 of these deaths involved a prescription painkiller.

• Males were nearly twice as likely to die of UP than females.

• Adults age 35-54 had the highest rate of UP death.

• Adults 45-54 were more than three times as likely to die of UP compared to teens and young adults age 15-24.

• Four out of 10 people who died of UP had a history of mental health problems.

• Two out of three people who died had a history of substance abuse.

• Seven out of 10 deaths occurred at a home or apartment, while one in four occurred at a hospital.

For treatment services or for more information, call Gateway for Prevention and Recovery at (405) 273-1170.


Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.