Mark your calendars and start cleaning out your medicine cabinet. This Saturday, April 27th, is National Drug Take-Back Day in Orange County. This is the perfect opportunity for residents to gather up any unused or unwanted prescriptions and bring them to designated monitored drop-off sites for proper disposal, no questions asked. Collection times will be from 10 am until 2 pm.
If you have been watching the news, you know that it could not come at a more critical time for local residents. Drug deaths continue to rise across the United States, including here in Southern California. According to the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner Division, the number of fatal overdoses in the area has increased by 82% since 2000.
Other sobering statistics:
- Every year, drug and alcohol poisonings result in more than 5000 hospitalizations and almost 700 deaths in Orange County.
- The average hospital stay was 3 days and cost over $26,000.
- Nearly 52% of overdose deaths and 54% of hospitalizations involve prescription medications, such as opioid painkillers (Oxycontin, Vicodin, etc.), benzodiazepine tranquilizers (Xanax, Valium, etc.), or stimulants (Adderall, Ritalin, etc.).
- Women are 6 times more likely to overdose on prescription drugs than men.
- 46% of all overdoses in the 35-to-44 age demographic were due to prescription medications.
- But the proportion of prescription involvement goes up with age. For example, among people 65 and older, over 87% of all overdoses involve prescribed medications.
- 35% of all Orange County overdoses are due to multi-substance toxicity.
The Problem of Prescription Drug Abuse
It is estimated that 54 million U.S. residents age 12 and over for misused a prescription for non-medical reasons. That means that more people abuse controlled medications then methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine combined.
Many people have this mistaken idea that people who misuse medications buy their drugs from scary-looking dealers in some back alley. But the unfortunate reality is 3 out of every 4 prescription drug abusers either get them from a doctor or from someone they know.
This means that your medicine cabinet might be the most dangerous place in your home.
Does National Drug Take-Back Day Work?
“There’s no reason why somebody should die from medications sitting in a medicine cabinet that someone’s not using.”
~ Scott Silverman, Safe Home Coalition
Since 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration has held two Take-Back Days each year, one in the Fall and one in the Spring.
In October 2018, almost 6000 Take-Back locations were set up around the country and over 900,000 pounds of unused or unwanted medications were turned in. Since the TBD program began, nearly 11 million pounds have been properly and safely disposed of—more than 5400 tons!
In California alone, 318 drug take-back sites collected 69,077 pounds in October 2018. Since 2010, close to 1 million pounds have been turned in.
Where Orange County Drug Injuries and Deaths are the Worst
In Orange County, cities along the coast have higher rate of substance-related hospitalizations and deaths than other cities. Here are the OC cities with the highest rates of hospitalizations:
- Dana Point: 6 admissions per 10,000 residents
- Laguna Beach: 1
- Laguna Woods:4
- San Clemente:1
- Costa Mesa:6
- San Juan Capistrano:3
- Laguna Niguel:9
- Huntington Beach:4
- Newport Beach:9
- Seal Beach:6
- Mission Viejo:1
To put those rates in perspective, Orange County as a whole is only 17.5 hospitalizations per 10,000 residents.
Here are the OC cities with the highest average numbers of substance-related hospitalizations per year:
- Anaheim: 538
- Huntington Beach: 510
- Santa Ana: 402
- Costa Mesa: 346
- Orange: 238
- Mission Viejo: 234
- La Palma: 226
- Newport Beach: 217
- San Clemente: 216
- Fullerton: 190
Altogether, there are an average of 5,465 substance-related hospital admissions every year.
But overdose deaths in Orange County are also a major problem. These are the OC cities with the highest rates of substance-related poisonings:
- Laguna Woods: 8 fatal overdoses per 10,000 residents
- Dana Point: 1
- Seal Beach: 8
- Laguna Beach: 4
- San Juan Capistrano: 2
- Costa Mesa: 7
- Huntington Beach: 9
- Buena Park: 1
- Laguna Niguel: 28
- Newport Beach: 1
To put those rates in perspective, Orange County as a whole has a overdose death rate of 21.9 per 10,000 residents.
Here are the OC cities with the most average overdose deaths per year:
- Anaheim: 78
- Santa Ana: 70
- Huntington Beach: 60
- Garden Grove: 40
- Orange: 37
- Costa Mesa: 35
- Fullerton: 31
- Newport Beach: 24
- Buena Park: 23
- Westminster: 20
In any given year, Orange County will suffer an average of 682 fatal substance-related poisonings.
The Most Dangerous Drugs in Orange County
According to the report from the Orange County Coroner, these substances are involved in the most local deaths:
- Opioids: An average of 187 deaths per year, or 83% of ALL opioid-related deaths
- Benzodiazepines: 121
- Antidepressants: 92
- Amphetamines: 81
- Antihistamines: 54
- Barbiturates: 7
Significantly, 1 out of every 4 overdose deaths in Orange County also involve alcohol. This is important because alcohol, opioids, benzodiazepines, and barbiturates are all Central Nervous Systems depressants that affect blood pressure, heart rate, and especially breathing. When used in any combination, these effects are magnified to a deadly degree.
But drug combinations can also render the life-saving anti-overdose drug Narcan ineffective Although Narcan quickly reverses an opioid overdose, it does not help with other kinds of drugs.
Age Matters: Prescription Medications versus Illegal Drugs
In almost every age group, prescription medications kill more people than illicit drugs, and the gap grows wider as users gets older. Look at the comparison within the various demographics:
- 15-to-24: Rx Drugs alone caused 30% of fatal overdoses versus 29% for illegal drugs
- 25-to-34: 31% versus 35%
- 35-to-44: 46% versus 29%
- 45-to-54: 55% versus 22%
- 55-to-64: 65% versus 17%
- 65 and older: 87% versus 2%
What Does This Mean to Orange County Residents?
Drug Take-Back Days remove dangerous, potentially-abused medications from YOUR home and YOUR community, keeping you and the people you care about safer. When you get rid of drugs you no longer need, you prevent abuse, accidents, and suicides.
As the top drug rehab in Orange County, Chapman House strongly supports any efforts to reduce the dangers of drug abuse and overdoses. National Drug Take-Back Day is a chance for all of us to get involved and do our part.
If you or someone you care about is abusing prescription medications, alcohol, or illicit drugs, contact Chapman House TODAY to get immediate help.