Virginia Mason Federal Way hosting drug take-back to help with opioid epidemic

Event set for Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • Monday, October 22, 2018 10:14am
  • Opinion
Dr. Julie Vath

Dr. Julie Vath

By Julie Vath

Special to the Mirror

Prescription medications play an important role in the health of millions of Americans.

However, expired medications or unused drugs often remain in cabinets for months or years. These expired drugs can pose health hazards to toddlers, teens and even pets who may inadvertently consume them. In fact, some medications are so potent that even one dose could be fatal if accidentally ingested.

There are also other important safety issues. The largest of which is misuse of prescription narcotic drugs, or opioids. This major, nationwide public health concern has been widely reported by media and warrants additional attention.

Alarming statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control, overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than in 1999.

A 2018 U.S. government report also found:

• Up to 70 percent of opioids prescribed for surgery are unused and left unattended in cabinets, which creates a risk for drug diversion and misuse

• More than half of all people who first misuse prescription drugs get them from family members, relatives or friends and often take them without asking

• Between 50 percent to 80 percent of current heroin users began opioid abuse using prescription opioids

National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

In light of the national opioid epidemic, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s “Take-Back” initiative is one of several strategies to reduce prescription drug abuse and diversion. As part of this nationwide education and safe disposal work, communities around the country have been teaming up with law enforcement to host National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Locally, Virginia Mason Federal Way Medical Center (33501 First Way S., Federal Way) is hosting a Drug Take-Back Day event on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Last year, about 5,300 sites across the country hosted National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day events and collected unwanted medications totaling more than 900,000 pounds.

The disposal service is free and anonymous for consumers, with no questions asked. Please keep in mind that needles, sharps, asthma inhalers, mercury thermometers, IV solutions, and illicit drugs (including marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law) are not accepted.

Why Virginia Mason?

Since city, county and state officials are focusing much of their collective efforts on harm reduction, it has given nonprofit medical providers – like Virginia Mason – the chance to focus on prevention.

Since we are a source for legally prescribed opioids, Virginia Mason is tackling opioid management in our hospitals and regional medical centers.

By hosting a take-back event, we aim to engage the greater Federal Way-area community while providing support for legal, safe and environmentally friendly reduction of opioids to help improve the health and safety of area residents.

Beyond this one-day event, Virginia Mason Federal Way has a permanent medication dropbox at its pharmacy, which is available during normal business hours. Virginia Mason also has permanent medication drop boxes in the pharmacies at Buck and Lindeman pavilions on its Hospital and Seattle Medical Center campus (1100 Ninth Ave., Seattle).

Julie Vath, MD, who is board certified in Anesthesiology, practices at Virginia Mason Hospital and Seattle Medical Center. As an anesthesiologist, Dr. Vath is very knowledgeable about the strong addictive properties of opioids and the importance of safely disposing them and other prescription medications. For this reason, she played point on organizing the Drug Take Back Event at Virginia Mason Federal Way Medical Center on Saturday, Oct. 27, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

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