Dec. 17, 2016
Christina Merino: Make sure to count, lock and drop pain killers and keep them from being abused by others.
I’ve heard a lot of addiction stories over the years, and most start out with “I had no idea she was taking pills” or “I wish I’d counted my pills and then I would’ve known.”
We hear stories of finding a visiting nephew going through an uncle’s medicine cabinet looking for pills, teenagers trying opioids at a party for fun and becoming addicted, and hospice nurses bringing in lock boxes to make sure family members don’t steal a dying patient’s medications.
The stories are real, as is the opioid epidemic that has gripped our state.
Judy Jenkins is one of the many faces of opioid addiction. I met Judy a few years ago when she reached out to the Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition looking to help others battling opioid addiction.
Judy’s daughter, Lydia, struggled for years with addiction, and Judy did everything a mother could do to help. Unfortunately, Lydia died from a drug overdose at the age of 41.
Judy knows firsthand the struggles of an addict. She knows that your own child will steal from you to get a “fix.” Judy refers to Lydia as a “bloodhound” when it came to finding pills. Judy would hide her medications, and Lydia would somehow manage to find them. That’s what those who are struggling with addiction do. In fact, 55 percent of people who use opioids recreationally get them from family or friends.
Judy has been a huge advocate for our program, Count It! Lock It! Drop It!™, because she knows the importance of counting your medications, locking them in a safe place, and dropping off unused or expired prescriptions at a secure drop box. She often says she wished the program had been around when Lydia was a teenager; things might be different for their family today.
As we enter the holiday season, we encourage you to take the pledge to keep your medications safe. Lydia didn’t look like someone dealing with addiction, making it easier for her to find pills. No one really looks like an addict until they’ve hit rock bottom.
Before you host a holiday gathering, please make sure you:
- Store your medications in a secure location. Consider investing in a home lock box.
- Count your pills regularly so you’ll know if a pill is missing.
- Never share your medications.
- Dispose of unused medications. Every county in Tennessee has a drop box.
This holiday season, please don’t be an accidental drug dealer. You can visit countitlockitdropit.org to learn more about protecting your family, find a secure drop box location and find links to area anti-drug coalitions. Local coalitions offer free materials and support programs, and some provide in-home lock boxes.
Christina Merino is the executive director of the Coffee County Anti-Drug Coalition and a co-founder of Count It! Lock It! Drop It!™, a program supported by a BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation grant.
Read more in The Tennessean.