Caldwell County leaders reinforce effort to curb prescription misuse

Mar. 04, 2014 @ 03:06 PM

A 19-year-old in Statesville gave two halves of a pill to two 15-year-old friends.

After taking the pill halves, one died of an overdose, and the other was admitted to the intensive care unit but lived. The 19-year-old is serving a prison sentence for second-degree murder.

A Wilkes County woman gave her 14-year-old nephew prescription medications, on which he overdosed. She too is in prison for second-degree murder.

Stories of prescription drug misuse and accidental overdoses like these are what a group of community leaders in Caldwell County is working to prevent. Caldwell County Leaders for Change is strengthening and focusing its attack on accidental overdoses and the misuse of prescription drugs in the county, taking the next steps in implementing a community-based program, Project Lazarus. Representatives of a number of agencies in the community -— including law enforcement, medicine, pharmacies, faith-based organizations and schools — met Monday at The Life Center in Lenoir to plan the next step in their process and inform the community of their work and of available resources.

Fred Wells Brason II formed Project Lazarus in Wilkes County in 2008 after finding astronomically high rates of prescription drug overdoses-the third highest in the country. Since, the rate has fallen by 69 percent thanks to community outreach, education and initiatives.

Brason talked to the Caldwell group Monday about how the program works.

The first step in the process, he said, is public awareness. The community needs to know the proper way to use and dispose of prescription medications in order to avoid the misuse that leads to accidental overdoses. One of the main problems, Brason said, is the preconception that prescription medications are safe, simply because they were prescribed by a doctor.

A major facet of this problem is family members and friends sharing prescribed medication, Brason said, as well as medication theft.

“Medicine cabinets are the worst place to keep medicine right now, unfortunately,” Brason said, as he displayed a lockbox designed specifically for prescription medications and even a pill bottle with a locking cap, only accessible if the correct 4-digit code is entered on the cap.

Brason also touted the successes of Naloxone, “the overdose antidote,” which Project Lazarus is working to disseminate. The drug is administered in syringe form, with a nasal adaptor. If a patient has suffered an overdose, half of the medicine is administered to one nostril, and the other half to the other nostril, and in a couple minutes the patient should be up and aware, Brason said.

Lazarus has worked to get Naloxone kits in the hands of law enforcement, pharmacies, schools and anyone who may be at risk of overdose.

Already with $8,500 in seed money, the Caldwell County group’s next step is to hone its focus, identify its objectives, and begin forming action plans.