Gaining Knowledge From Tragedy

When tragedy strikes we all ask “Why?”  When it’s unexpected or an accident, we ask “How?”  For the small community of Jacksboro those questions rang out in January 2017, when a local teen was found unresponsive in his home.

Judge Stacey Spurlock ordered an autopsy, which determined the cause of death as toxic effect of morphine and alprazolam (Xanax) and manner of death was accidental.  Jack County Sheriff’s Department along with Wise County District Attorney’s Office immediately started an investigation into the incident.  Evidence collected from the scene included a bottle of morphine prescribed to the deceased’s grandfather.  Wise County DA Investigator found that the grandfather had been under Hospice care and had passed away in his home prior to this incident.

Hospice care is a specialized type of care for patients facing a life-limiting illness, their families, and their caregivers.  Hospice care focuses on the quality of life rather than its length, so most patients are given strong medications to help with the pains of their illness.  Most hospice companies leave it up to the families to get rid of or ‘destroy’ any medicines that are left after a patients’ death.

For a lot of us, when dealing with the loss of a loved one we don’t think straight or clear.  It’s easy to put things away to deal with later, only to not think about it again or just forget about it all together.  This accident was just that case.  The family put the left over medicine in a basket in a closet to deal with later, but other things in normal day to day life happened and it was forgotten about.  They say knowledge is power and our hope is that from this tragedy people will be more aware of procedures and how to deal with things left behind.

So, what do we do with medicines left behind or no longer needed or even expired?

  1. If it is non-prescription (over-the-counter), you can take it to your local pharmacy at any time.
  2. If it is a controlled substance prescription, you can take it to a DEA Drug Take-Back event or find a disposal location near you.

In September 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted the first Drug Take-Back Event.  During this event there was 242,000 pounds (121 tons) of prescription drugs turned in.  During the April 2018 event close to one million pounds (nearly 475 tons) was collected.  Since the fall of 2010, together with a record setting amount of local, state, and federal partners, DEA has collected and destroyed 9,964,714 pounds (4,982 tons) of potentially dangerous expired, unused, or unwanted prescription drugs.

From the Drug Enforcement Administration / May 7, 2018:

“Today we are facing the worst drug crisis in American history, with one American dying of a drug overdose every nine minutes,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “An unprecedented crisis like this one demands an unprecedented response–and that’s why President Trump has made this issue a priority for this administration. DEA’s National Drug Take Back Days are important opportunities for people to turn in unwanted and potentially addictive drugs with no questions asked. These Take Back Days continue to break records, with the latest taking nearly 1 million pounds of prescription drugs off of our streets. And so I want to thank DEA and especially every American who participated in this event. I have no doubt it will help keep drugs out of the wrong hands and stop the spread of addiction.”

“National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is a day for every American, in every community across the country, to come together and do his or her part to fight the opioid crisis – simply by disposing of unwanted prescription medications from their medicine cabinets,” said DEA Acting Administrator Robert W. Patterson. “This event – our 15th – brings us together with local, state and federal partners to fight the abuse of prescription drugs that is fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic.”

Now in its 9th year, National Prescription Drug Take Back Day events continue to remove ever-higher amounts of opioids and other medicines from the nation’s homes, where they could be stolen and abused by family members and visitors, including children and teens.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

DEA launched its prescription drug take back program when both the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration advised the public that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines-flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash-posed potential safety and health hazards.

Helping people to dispose of potentially harmful prescription drugs is just one way DEA is working to reduce the addiction and overdose deaths plaguing this country due to opioid medications.

Complete results for DEA’s spring Take Back Day are available at https://takebackday.dea.gov/. DEA’s next Prescription Drug Take Back Day is October 27, 2018.

*Public Controlled Substance Disposal Locations near Jacksboro:

  • Graham Regional Medical Center, Graham, TX. The have a box set up in the ER.
  • Gail’s Pharmacy, Bridgeport, TX.
  • Walgreen, Weatherford, TX.

The impact of the accidental overdose mentioned at the beginning of this story has resonated throughout the Jack County area. The family at the center of this tragedy has suffered in numerous ways. Not just through the death of a beloved son, brother and friend but through the sentencing of the mother in the death of the young man. now serving 35 years for delivery of a controlled substance to a minor.  The tragedy brought to this community the awareness that the opiod problem does exist in the rural areas and nobody is immune. The hope of all involved is that even just one life may be saved by knowledge of the risks of using drugs that were prescribed for someone else and what to do with unused drugs. Perhaps then, there can be solace found in knowing this senseless tragedy did not end there at the scene, and the untimely death of the promising young man was not in vain.

For more information about the Drug Take-Back Event or what to do with your medicines, visit the DEA website at https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov.

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