Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in North Carolina, and across the United States. “In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills” (American Society of Addiction Medicine, 2016). As a class of drug opioids, which include pain relieving medications have an increased risk of addiction and abuse. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, many people share medications or take prescription medication not prescribed to them for non-medical purposes. There is a lower perception of harm associated with using prescription medication compared with illicit drugs. This may be because they are prescribed by a physician and dispensed legally, but when misused, they can be just as dangerous. Misuse and abuse of medications, both prescribed and over the counter, is a leading cause of unintentional poisonings. The Center of Disease Controls and Prevention (CDC) saw a nearly 480% increase in opioid overdose deaths between 2010 and 2013, many of which involved prescription opioid pain relievers. Nationally, accidental poisoning deaths from prescription medication are now the number one cause of accidental death, surpassing death by motor vehicle. In North Carolina, it is the 2nd leading cause of death and 68% of unintentional poisoning deaths were attributed to opioid, other prescriptions and over the counter medication (NCDHHS, October 2013).
Due to this increased risk of harm and death related to prescription drug abuse in our community, the Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth has partnered with many local agencies to address this issue. The primary focus is on safe storage and safe disposal of prescriptions to prevent them from falling into the hands of those who might sell or abuse them. Through collaborative efforts, there are now permanent prescription drop boxes at every law enforcement agency in Orange County, as well as the Orange County Court House, for residents to safely dispose of unwanted, unused or expired medication.
However, safe storage of prescription medication in the home is also an issue of concern. According to local surveys, many people do not currently lock up prescription medications, and finding prescription lock boxes has not been easy; only Walgreens carries prescription lock boxes for sale in the northern part of the county. For this reason, Orange Partnership is kicking off a “Lock it UP!” pilot program to increase safe storage and encourage conversations about this issue. Families in Hillsborough and rural Orange County who have potentially abusive medication and children under 18 living in or frequently visiting the home, or have a high risk of theft, can request a FREE lock box while supplies last. Equally important is to model safe (and legal) use by only taking medications as prescribed and never share medications. It is vital that youth see adults modeling these behaviors and that medications are safely stored in order to decrease access and reduce the perception that prescription medications are less harmful than illicit drugs. Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth strongly recommends having these potentially life-saving conversations! Suggestions for safe guarding medications and how to talk to kids about prescription medication misuse can be found on wwww.orangepartnership.org. Those who are interested in receiving a free prescription lock box should contact Gayane Chambless at or call 919 942-8083.
It is impossible to protect the youth of our community without the hard work of our coalition members. In each newsletter we will spotlight two members involved in different aspects of Orange Partnership.
My name is Jessica Gomez and I am a junior at Cedar Ridge High School. I play golf and run track. I am also in ADAPT, NTHS, Spanish Club, RASK and RedCross Club.
I think what inspired me to be involved with Orange Partnership subcommittee ADAPT was mainly because underage drinking today is big issue and normally it's begins around my age (16+). I know several who do drink underage and I realize they don't really understand or know of the consequences involved with it. Many parents also aren't aware of this issue. But I feel like by joining ADAPT we can reach out together to the community and spread the word about this and make a difference.
One of my favorite experiences was when we visited Eagles, a local convenience store, and got to grade the store based on how many warning signs it had, alcohol advertisements, and where the alcoholic beverages were stored. We also got to speak to the store manager which was quite cool and exciting for me.
I would encourage others to become more involved with Orange Partnership because they too can make a difference withing our community and for teens like me ADAPT is really fun to join.
I started as the Teen Court Coordinator at Volunteers for Youth in June 2013, shortly after graduating from Elon University with a B.A. in Psychology and minors in Criminal Justice and Communications. As a fourth generation Chapel Hillian, I am dedicated to helping local youth learn from their mistakes by giving back to the community. I currently serve as the co-chair for Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth. I also volunteer with paws4people by socializing service dogs, enjoy swimming and hiking, and love the beach!
I was inspired to become involved after seeing just how many Teen Court clients were using drugs and alcohol and how these substances were negatively affecting them. While not all Teen Court referrals are directly for drug or alcohol offenses, I often find that when talking with the youth that their legal problems stem from underlying issues with drugs and/or alcohol.
I also was very impressed by the ADAPT program, where teens are given the opportunity to advocate for themselves and their peers. I think it is important that it isn't just adults advocating for youth issues, but that youth also learn to advocate for their peers (much like in Teen Court).
In the fall, I had the opportunity to attend CADCA with other Orange Partnership stakeholders. CADCA's mid-year training not only taught me a great deal about methods to reduce youth drug use, but gave me the opportunity to make connections with other professionals who are similarly passionate about keeping youth safe. The sessions ranged from non-profit grant writing workshops, to lectures on the latest scientific research surrounding the effect of marijuana on adolescent brain development. Speakers included scientists, physicians, accountants, geographic information system specialists and communication professionals, among others. Particularly helpful to both my position as the Orange County Teen Court Coordinator and OP co-chair, was a presentation which discussed the correlation beteen alcohol dependence and age. International and Native American coalitions were present for the 5-day training, exposing me to various prevention methods across cultures. In addition to learning from other coalitions, I shared some of OP's effective efforts with other CADCA coalitions, specifically in regards to ADAPT's youth advocacy accomplishments. I am eager to share and implement the new initiatives I learned about at CADCA here in Orange County.
For Orange Partnership to continue their work, it is important that OP has input from a diverse group of community members. Whether you represent a specific retailer, faith community, parenting group, business, profession, etc. your perspectives is important in helping to reach youth.
On December 10th county off premise locations and December 15th Hillsborough area locations were surveyed. We varied the hours based on discussion at the last ALERT meeting. A larger number of stores did not check IDs this time. The following stores DID pass so please continue to shop and thank them for passing!
Discussions during the last quarter community coalition meetings centered on the marijuana community survey results, law enforcement operations, ADAPT and retail efforts to reduce underage drinking and the pilot Prescription Lock Box initiative, “Lock it UP!”
Based on the community surveys, coalition members decided that the focus on marijuana would be to advocate for best practices to protect youth, should North Carolina consider medical and/or recreational marijuana. As recommended by members, we are looking at other states for information on best practices, and will be sharing that information at future meetings.
The Orange Partnership purchased 200 Rx lock boxes to be dispersed in Hillsborough and rural Orange County to families who have potentially addictive medications and children under 18 in the home or who frequently visit. Coalition members partnering to help distribute flyers and/or lock boxes include Department of Juvenile Justice, Department of Social Services, Family Advocacy Network, Freedom House, Hillsborough Police Department, Orange County Schools and Teen Court. Boxes are available while supplies last.
The Alcohol Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT) continues to actively check grocery and convenience stores for compliance with state laws. Recently they have begun to check restaurants and bars as well. Through alcohol purchase surveys the Orange Partnership regularly conducts, we have noted a reduction in sales to underage youth in the Hillsborough area; however, compliance issues are a concern in the Mebane and rural Orange County area.
ADAPT members from Cedar Ridge and Orange High schools take the information provided from the alcohol purchase surveys and ALERT operations to guide their work with local retailers. They visited stores providing merchant education through store environmental audits results, information on training to increase compliance with state laws, and advocating for policy changes.
At the most recent community coalition meeting held in January, members discussed strategies to address the root problems of prescription medication, marijuana use and underage drinking as we move forward into the new year. Issues of concern raised included varying of consequences for substance abuse from school to school, lack of and/or barriers to in school supports for those charged with a substance, and parent support for consequences.
Orange Partnership is a community coalition, and is open to the public.
The next meeting will be held from 9am-10:30 am on March 16th at the Orange County ABC Board Office on Valley Forge Rd. in Hillsborough.
We are thankful to Freedom House Recovery Center for providing administrative support for our fundraising efforts. When donating online, please be sure that Orange Partnership is selected from the Program section.
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Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth
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104 New Stateside Dr.
Chapel Hill, NC 27516
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The Safe Homes Network is a community of parents and other adults who have pledged NOT to provide alcohol, tobacco or other drugs to youth. They are promising to make reasonable efforts to ensure that youth are not obtaining or using these substances in their home or on their property.
The partnership gives network members a directory of others who have signed the pledge. We will also keep members
up-to date on the issue of youth substance abuse through a bi-annual e-newsletter where you can learn how to encourage others to join our efforts. Click the button below to join the Safe Homes Network. For more information, contact Gayane Chambless at email@example.com. You can also check out the conversation on our Facebook page.