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Shelby Med Prep students take proactive stance in fight against opioid abuse

Shelby, Mont.

Everyone has the potential to be a drug dealer–you, your mom, your grandma, and you may not even realize it. All those old, not entirely used prescriptions safely tucked away in cupboards and medicine cabinets are an easy fix for someone struggling with an opioid addiction or can be tempting for teen wanting to bring some additional “fun” to a party.

Mrs. Tokerud’s Med Prep class recently watched “The Pharmacist” and upon doing so were made more aware of how big this problem is getting. School Superintendent Elliott Crump is also aware of the growing problem and signed a contract with MSU-Extension for an opioid curriculum in the school, but that curriculum won’t be available for another year. This didn’t sit well with Mrs. Tokerud and her Med Prep class students so they decided to get started now, with some help from Mary Miller and Alliance for Youth.

On Tuesday, Feb. 9, Miller visited Mrs. Tokerud’s Med Prep class and brought with her two cases of Deterra medication bags. The students plan to hand out the bags, along with information, at the home sporting events. The bags are a safe and easy way of deactivating and disposing of medication.

“The bags can’t be used for liquids or needles,” said Miller. “But they do contain activated carbon that when mixed with warm water will render pharmaceutical compounds in pills and patches inert and safe for household trash.”

The students are doing this outreach program through MSU Extension and are the first outreach group through the program, something the community and the students can be proud of. 

“The information students can get and then share with each other is the most useful,” said Miller. “Kids listen to other kids, not so much to their parents or teachers. We encourage everyone to join in this effort.”

There is currently not a lot of known opioid use in the school, but there is some and not having the problem grow any larger, while educating everyone on the dangers, is one of the main goals of the group.

The Deterra bags are very simple to use. Each pouch contains a water-soluble inner pod containing activated carbon. Once the pharmaceuticals are placed into the pouch warm water is added, which dissolves the inner pod, releasing the activated carbon. The warm water also starts to dissolve the pills and patches as they are absorbed by the carbon, rendering them inert and irretrievable. 

Northtown Drug pharmacist Ann Clark also visited with the class and shared more information on opioids and what their intended use is.

“Opioids, opiates, narcotics, they are all one in the same,” said Clark. “They were made and used to treat illness, deal with pain and other medical issues. It wasn’t realized in the beginning the bad that came with them. It was found out later that people needed them once taking them or they would get physically sick. Morphine is a major one.”

Clark pointed out to the class opioids are needed, medically, and that there are some people who the benefits outweigh the risks, but a lot of times these medications, once no longer needed, are left, forgotten, in medicine cabinets and cupboards.

“This program you are promoting urges parents, grandparents and others to clean out the medicine cabinets,” said Clark. “It’s amazing how much is given out. With opioid addiction comes a lot of crime, addicts will do what they need to in order to get more. It’s devastating to everyone. You can save lives by cutting back access.”

Clark shared with students there is a med-safe container available at North-town Drug for discarding unused prescriptions. It is completely anonymous and an easy way of disposing of unused and unneeded prescription drugs. She encouraged the students to share the information with their peers and out in the community and praised them for their efforts in trying to make their community a safer place.

“Any little bit you can do to help your community is a good thing,” said Clark. “The more you know, the more you can help. I think it’s awesome you guys are taking the time to learn about this and do something about it.”

Every little bit of proactive measure helps and the community is encouraged to join in the efforts of the med prep class in getting rid of potentially dangerous drugs getting into the wrong hands. The Deterra disposal bags will be available, for free, at home sporting events. Anyone needing to can also dispose of any unused prescription drugs at the med-safe container located at Northtown Drug.