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Guam disposes of unused prescription drugs

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by Michele Catahay

Guam - The island recently held its first ever national prescription "Drug Take Back" campaign, where residents were encouraged to drop-off their unused prescription drugs for disposal. According to U.S. Attorney Alicia Limtiaco, the epidemic is something that should be taken lightly.

"Statistics from national studies, which show the rise of prescription drugs abuse by children and teenagers include one in seven teens admit to abusing prescription drugs to get high in the past year; 60% of teens who abuse prescription pain relievers did so before they were 15 years of age; two in five teens believe that prescription are 'much safer' than illegal drugs," she explained.

Limtiaco says teens are beginning to abuse these drugs by hosting cocktail parties where pills are placed in a bowl and shared with a large amount of people.

Resident agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration Tony Marquez says there needs to be some type awareness in the community.  He said, "Parents and family members need to speak to their children about this issue and this is serious. We often think that just because the medications are prescribed by a doctor, that it's okay and safe, but isn't in terms of whether it's used properly. How many times have finished our medication and left that bottle waiting in the medicine cabinet or so forth and when you look back and check - one pill, two pill - and all of a sudden they start disappearing?"

Teens are also opting to purchase drugs from Internet pharmacies.  "A lot of times," Marquez continued, "people will obtain prescription drugs from other countries and you have to understand they aren't regulated by U.S. control. Dosage may not be that amount. It could be more or less. It could cause some serious damage."

Public Health environmental health administrator Tom Nadeau says his division has a control substance program in charge of registering institutions handling controlled substances such as pharmacies. In addition, they investigate any complaints. For the past several years, this program has been inactive due to limited resources. 

"I can say in the past years, when the program was active, we had close to a hundred individuals, including health care practitioners on that list as being known or suspected diverse of pharmaceuticals controlled substances," Nadeau said.

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