Nearly half of all poisoning deaths nationwide among children under 6 years old result from medication, with pain-killers the single most-frequent cause of pediatric fatalities.
However, a local effort is under way this week to help reduce such statistics by getting unwanted medications off the streets.
This includes drug-take backs at campuses in all three school systems in Surry County, featuring collections by city officers in the Tuesday carpool lines at Mount Airy High and Middle schools, from 7:15 to 8 a.m., along with others at additional campuses.
Schools and law enforcement agencies are partnering with the Project Lazarus-Surry organization to provide families an easy way to dispose of unused or expired medications, although no liquids or needles are being accepted. This week-long lifesaving effort is being held in conjunction with an initiative of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, known as “Got Drugs.”
Also this week, in addition to the Tuesday carpool lines in Mount Airy:
• Unwanted medications can be taken to the Pilot Mountain Police Department from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through Friday.
• Carpool take-backs will occur Wednesday at all four Surry County middle schools from 7:25-8:05 a.m.
• Thursday from 7:25-8 a.m., officers will be in the carpool lines at Elkin Elementary and Elkin High/Middle schools.
• On Friday, the three high schools in Surry County will be involved, from 7-7:40 a.m., with the first 20 participants to receive a sandwich coupon for Chick-fil-A.
This marks the second October that carpool line drug take-backs are under way at local campuses, and organizers are hoping to build on last year’s success — as evidenced by what happened at Elkin schools alone.
Officers there averaged receiving more than 100 dosage units per minute. “You couldn’t ask for better than that,” Project Lazarus-Surry Coordinator Karen Eberdt said Monday of what she considers an important ongoing activity to alleviate abuse and misuse of prescription medications.
“It’s absolutely a cog in the wheel,” Eberdt said.
“It’s not addressing one piece of the problem, it’s addressing multiple pieces of the problem.”
Of course, the important thing is removing potentially deadly substances from the community before these can reach the wrong hands, according to the Project Lazarus-Surry coordinator.
Plus, the tie-with school carpooling lines is a way to open up a dialogue between parents and youths about the dangers, as part of a goal among organizers to “start the conversation early and often.”
That includes discussing how some medicines and candy look alike, and just because something resembles candy doesn’t mean it should be consumed. Also, if medicine tasks good, one should not ingest more than doctors or parents have said is the correct amount.
“It’s a cultural change that needs to happen,” Eberdt said of altering a mindset that the answer to every problem is a pill.
Underlying the concern are figures reported to U.S. Poison Control showing that 45.7 percent of poisoning fatalities among children younger than 6 years old from 2010 through 2014 were due to medication.
Education is a large component of Project Lazarus-Surry’s efforts to keep young people from misusing or abusing prescription drugs, along with trying to lessen existing addiction problems among the adult population
Eberdt compared its mission to what was needed to educate people about the dangers of cigarettes and not wearing seat belts.
“Seat belts were installed in cars, but that didn’t make people wear them,” she said, which partly was achieved by making citizens aware of how safety restraints save lives.
Anyone unable to participate in this week’s take-back campaign can dispose of unwanted medications at ongoing drop-boxes at the Mount Airy and Elkin police departments and Surry County Sheriff’s Office.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.