Virginia Mason is hosting its third annual Drug Take Back Event at the Federal Way regional medical center (33501 First Way S.) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.

Virginia Mason is hosting its third annual Drug Take Back Event at the Federal Way regional medical center (33501 First Way S.) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.

Pandemic has increased risk for abuse of unused, expired medications

Community encouraged to participate in Drug Take Back Oct. 24

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and associated recession have adversely affected the health of many Americans and created new challenges for people already suffering from behavioral health conditions, including substance use disorders.

In a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey conducted in mid-July, 53 percent of American adults – up from 32 percent in March – said their behavioral health had been negatively affected from worry and stress over COVID-19.

In the same survey, many American adults also reported

increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12 percent).

As the pandemic carries on, ongoing and necessary public health measures will continue exposing many people to situations linked to poor behavioral health outcomes, such as isolation and unemployment. In fact, research shows that job loss is associated with increased depression and may lead to higher rates of substance use disorders. As evidence, another recent KFF study found 13.3 percent of American adults reported new or increased substance use as a way to attempt to manage stress during the pandemic.

COVID-19 and substance use According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the pandemic is likely to have both long- and short-term implications for behavioral health, including substance use disorders.

These include development of new substance use disorders and worsening of pre-existing substance use disorders.

The pandemic may sometimes make people feel that they are unable to exert control or influence over a very challenging situation. However, one of easiest things many of us can – and should – do to help ensure the safety of our home environment is regularly go through the medicine cabinet and properly dispose of unused or expired medications. This is especially important since

studies have shown that unused medications in the home can be a contributing factor to new or worsened substance use disorders.

Federal Way Drug Take Back event this Saturday, Oct. 24

In conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Association’s (DEA) annual countrywide effort each fall, Virginia Mason is hosting its third annual Drug Take Back Event at the Federal Way regional medical center (33501 First Way S.) Saturday, Oct. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

As has been the case since 2018, this year’s event is supported by a number of organizations, including the DEA, CHI Franciscan, City of Federal Way, Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, Federal Way Public Schools, Federal Way Police Department, South King Fire & Rescue and the Federal Way Mirror.

In light of COVID-19, and to help ensure the safety of community members and volunteers, this year’s event will take a no-touch drop-off approach to the collection and safe disposal of unused or expired medications.

All participants will be required to wear masks and physically distance. When people drive up, they will be asked to get out of their vehicle and place their unused or expired prescription drugs on the ground before driving away.

Gloved volunteers will then carefully collect the donations and place them in DEA-issued safe disposal containers.

The medications that will be accepted include all over-the-counter or prescribed pills, liquids or capsules, such as ADHD medications, Ambien, antidepressants, codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone (Norco, Vicodin), Klonopin, morphine, muscle relaxants, oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), tramadol (Ultram), valium, vaping pens/cartridges without batteries, and Xanax. Items that will not be accepted include chemotherapy medications, epinephrine injectors, illegal drugs, intravenous solutions, lancets, nebulizers, needles, syringes, and vaping pens/cartridges with batteries.

Since this event has been so well supported and received the past couple of years, we were glad the DEA had a pandemic protocol and was able to help us pivot to ensure people could safely participate. Besides collecting and safely disposing of hundreds of pounds of unused or expired medications, the annual event allows us to remind community members about this important practice and the fact that there are secure medication disposal bins available year-round at convenient locations throughout King County – including one at Virginia Mason Federal Way.

Scott Hansen, MD, is board-certified in Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. He practices at Virginia Mason Medical Center on First Hill in Seattle.

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