Thanks to the initiative of some high school students, a secure prescription drug drop box was installed this week outside the Laguna Beach Police Department. Located in an alcove to the left of the lobby doors, the box serves the public as a repository for the safe disposal of any prescription drugs they no longer need or that have expired.
Five Laguna Beach High School students involved with the Laguna Prescription Drug Awareness group teamed up with the police department’s Detective Larry Bammer in an effort to combat prescription drug abuse by teens. Senior Ryan Cook, juniors Cyanna Atkinson, Nathanial Colburn and Garrett Burk, and sophomore Chloe Jackson asked the City Council last month to install a drop box. They voted unanimously in favor of the idea.
The students spoke passionately about the need to halt abuse of prescription drugs, a problem highlighted in the 2012 documentary “Behind the Orange Curtain.” The film produced by a Laguna Niguel mother examines teenage drug abuse in Orange County.
According to a 2011 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, more than 6 million Americans abuse prescription drugs. Among youth who are 12 to 17 years old, 7.4% report having a history of non-medical prescription drug usage.
In Orange County, teen prescription drug abuse is even higher than national trends. Seventeen percent of 11th grade students report having used prescription painkillers for non-medical use at least once in their lifetime, said police Capt. Jason Kravetz in a statement. The availability of these unused prescriptions adds to the drug abuse problem. “Now Laguna Beach citizens won’t have to wait for a specific take back day to clean out their medicine cabinets,” he said.
More than 70% of young people abusing prescription pain relievers get them through friends or family, a statistic that includes raiding the family medicine cabinet, he said.
Police advise parents to keep prescription drugs locked away. Any unused drugs should be properly disposed of, said Jackson, not flushed down the drain or the toilet, since they can harm the environment.
The student group volunteers with the police department during “drug take back” drives twice a year. Last September, 250 pounds of unwanted medicines was collected, Colburn said. But people repeatedly ask about safe disposal of the drugs other times, Burk said. After the group learned that Dana Point’s sheriff’s substation installed a drop box that has been well-received, they decided to push for a similar one in Laguna.
Now anyone can anonymously deposit unwanted psrescription drugs in the box at any time, day or night. The police will collect the pills and dispose of them periodically whenever they routinely destroy evidence drugs by incineration.
Another citywide drug drop off day is planned for Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the school district’s parking lot on Blumont Street.