UK Researcher is Improving Messaging to Promote Disposal of Unused Prescription Drugs

Don Helme: Well, if we watch the news, we
can see that the opioid epidemic is huge. This project is focusing on Appalachia and
rural areas specifically, but it’s a nation-wide issue. Every year, something like 3.9 billion controlled
substances are prescribed. Many of them opioids. Over 70 percent of those go unused. That’s left over medicine that is then available to, unfortunately, hit a secondary market. Or to be stolen out of people’s homes or people’s
medicine cabinets. Proper disposal hopefully can cut into that
70 percent. As it stands now, in terms of existing disposal
program really only account for 0.2 percent of all of those opioids that are prescribed
and unused. Point 2 percent. So, it’s not even a drop in the bucket in
terms of we get back from take back events and from these disposal boxes. Narrator: UK’s Don Helme and Wake Forest’s Mark
Wolfson are conducting focus groups in three counties in Kentucky and two in North Carolina. They’re focusing on strategies to raise
awareness and increase use of drug disposal boxes and take-back events. Don Helme: Every county in the state has a
disposal facility for unused medications, that people can go by, drop them off, get
rid of them. One of the issues is that they tend to be
located, for security reasons, at the sheriff’s office or the police department. Some of our focus group data that’s coming
out of the current project, that’s one of the main themes that’s coming up. Most folks are like, wait, we have what in
this county? I didn’t know that existed. And then when they hear the location, they’re
like, yeah… I’m not going to stop by there and drop these
off. Because they don’t want to get on the police
force’s radar or the sheriff’s radar, so to speak. And they don’t want people seeing them dropping them off, because there’s a security issue. Some of the folks in our focus groups have
mentioned that if somebody knows you’re going into surgery, they think you’re going to get prescribed pain pills, you’re going to get broken into. They said it’s a fact. And that’s disturbing and surprising, and
these folks are afraid. Some of it’s cultural, why people hold on
to these. There’s a culture in a lot of rural areas, and other places as well, of save it in case you need it. Because prescriptions are expensive. And I understand that. This might be Vicodin, or Lortab, or Oxycontin
or hydrocodone. Those can become a security issue. Part of what we’re hoping to accomplish
with our project is to encourage people to take advantage of the existing disposal facilities. And to, you know, make folks feel that it’s
a safe thing to do. That they can get rid of these, and they don’t,
you know, have to be afraid Narrator: The project expanded to include a drug
deactivation pouch called deterra, when the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office reached
out to Dr. Helme. Don Helme: Mr. Beshear’s office reached out
to us after they saw an article in UKNOW about the CCTS funded project that Mark Wolfson at Wake Forest School of Medicine and I had received. And they were interested, because they also
saw that we were working in Floyd County separate from what they were doing, in partnership
to look at promoting proper disposal, of unused prescription medications. They told us about the Deterra package project
that they have going, where they’ve received funding, and are distributing 50,000 Deterra
packages to four counties in Kentucky; Floyd, Henderson, McCracken, and Perry. And what a Deterra package is, kind of looks
like a padded envelope where you can pour in a bottle of unused medicine, pour in a
little bit of water, seal it up, and in like 30 seconds to a minute, it’s chemically rendered
inert. So it’s completely deactivated, and you can
throw it in the trash. It’s also biodegradable and non-toxic at that
point. Since they’re distributing some of these packages
in Floyd County, they wanted us to talk to the folks down there as part of our project
to see what do people think about these Deterra packages, how is it being received, are people
using them, where can they get them, are they easy to get? So, that’s one of the things that we’re going
to be doing in partnership with Mr. Beshear’s office, basically gauging the receptivity
of Deterra in the county. As researchers here at UK, we’re often interested
in, from not just an academic sense, but for myself, as a health communication researcher,
how to improve lives. While we can study that from an academic
sense and from a scientific sense, we’re not the ones that make policy. We can’t flip the switch and make something
into a law. The state can. So it’s important for us to partner with the
state when it’s appropriate and when it’s possible, because our data, our evidence that
we find from our scientific studies can, ideally, provide the state with information it needs
to make good decisions in terms of, in this case, how specifically we can tackle this
opioid crisis.

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published