Teen, insurance official team up to combat prescription abuse
We’ve joined forces to combat an insidious threat to our children—the rise of illegal prescription drug abuse by teenagers.
It’s not often that a teenage girl from Reedsburg and the president of a large Wisconsin health insurance company would become partners in a social cause.
But here we are. Our mutual goal is to take prescriptions drugs, most looted from family medicine cabinets, out of the hands of teenagers who use them illegally, share them with friends, or sell them.
The threat is far more pervasive than people think. It’s shocking to learn that, at Reedsburg High School, kids have been taking prescription drugs from home for “pharm parties” and dumping them in a bowl for partiers to share.
We’ve learned that one in five teenagers in Wisconsin have used these illegal drugs—and one in 10 uses them regularly to get high.
The growth in prescribed medicines the past few years is stunning. While these are excellent health care tools when used correctly, the fact is that one in every two households has at least one prescription medication—and most have more.
We see a massive drug supply system, where teens steal prescription drugs and adults seldom notice the medications missing. So while we have plenty of programs warning teens about the use of drugs, we’re focusing on adults, the people who own and store prescription drugs.
Reedsburg High School, with police cooperation, has started a program in which adults can safely dispose of their unused prescription drugs. The program collected more than 400 pounds of pills the first time and nearly 1,000 pounds the second time—in one small town!
We’re using a state grant to spread this program in communities around the state. It’s a big challenge.
In Janesville in September, we launched the “Safer Use-Prevents Abuse” (saferusepreventsabuse.com) coalition that involves the WEA Trust and organizations involved in education, law enforcement and health.
Coalition members are educating others about safer use and storage of prescription drugs in their communities.
The WEA Trust is educating members, giving out hundreds of pill “safe boxes” free of charge. They are small enough to fit in a medicine cabinet and their locks are strong enough to prevent drug theft.
One of our leaders in this event was Rock County District Attorney David O’Leary, who had the tragic responsibility of prosecuting a case in which a 14-year-old Edgerton girl supplied illegal prescription drugs that killed a 13-year-old boy.
O’Leary said he got involved because it was a tragedy for everyone involved—and one he never wants to see happen again.
Neither do we. That’s why a 15-year-old girl and a middle-aged insurance executive have teamed up to keep our communities safe.
It is working in Reedsburg. We can make it work everywhere.
Mark Moody is president of the WEA Trust, and Jordyn Schara is a Reedsburg teen who initiated a community program to safely collect unused prescription drugs.