Robeson County takes action against prescription drug use - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Robeson County takes action against prescription drug use

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Lumberton, NC -

LUMBERTON, NC (WMBF) – A pill that works to reverse the effects of a drug overdose may soon come to Robeson County.

Naloxone is a prescription drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose.

"So literally, it's waking somebody up from a dead scenario," Fred Wells Brason explained. He is the co-founder and president of Project Lazarus, an education group committed to preventing drug overdose from prescription drugs.

Naloxone is currently used in Wilkes County, which has the highest rate of death from prescription drug overdose in North Carolina. Brason believes this drug, along with strong community-based awareness programs can help Robeson county significantly reduce its numbers.

"The medical community has gotten together with everybody else - law enforcement, the schools. We're doing more educations [with] the parenting organizations. All those factors are necessary," he said. 

Brason explained the model used to combat prescription drug use in Wilkes County to a group of medical and public health professionals during a community forum Tuesday. He said the number of deaths from prescription drug overdoses has decreased 30 percent as a result of the efforts of increased awareness and education along with the availability of naloxone.

He also said the number of emergency room visits decreased 13 percent – both occurring within one year.

Not all deaths from drug overdose are cases of prescription drug abuse; often times they are shared or simply misused. "They call them accidental poisonings," Brason explained. "People just took too much medication or mixed their medication."

"I didn't learn about prescription drug use, Robeson County taught me about it," asserted family-medicine physician, Dr. Robin Peace, during the break-out sessions. She said medical professionals need more training in recognizing and impeding prescription drug abuse.

"If you get one provider in a clinic that is liberal, in prescribing pain medications then the word gets out in the community." She has observed a dramatic increase in prescription drug abuse in Robeson County and believes physicians often serve as facilitators.

In an effort to curb the amount of mediations prescribed by her staff, Dr. Peace does not allow P.A.s to prescribe medications to patients under the age of 16.

"They readily welcomed it," she explained, because this reduces their liability in prescribing medications to an often-complex class of patients.

Brason advocates doctors considering alternative ways to treat pain so fewer prescription drugs are in circulation.

"The community is really becoming aware of those issues and they're working together," LaTasha Murray of Robeson HealthCare Corporation. She works with the county's drug prevention groups and says it has come a long way in raising awareness.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy says the abuse of prescription medication is the fastest-growing drug problem in the country. It is the second most commonly-abused drug after marijuana.

Statistics show 1.5 billion doses, or roughly 40 percent - of prescribed medications in the U.S. go unused each year. Twenty-five percent of those who died from an overdose never had a prescription from a physician for that mediation.

Brason said statistics show white males in their late thirties are dying from prescription drug overdose at the highest rate in North Carolina. Studies show prescription drug use is higher in rural communities such as the Pee Dee.

Experts encourage prescription drug users to securely store medications in your home. Some suggest locking in a small safe to prevent it from getting in the wrong hands.

They also suggest properly disposing of the medication when no-longer being used. Certain medications are harmful to the environment if flushed or left in a landfill.

Most importantly, never give or share a prescription drug to someone other than the person for whom it was prescribed.

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