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March 25, 2009
AG McKenna warns parents about growing prescription drug threat

Drug overdoses now out-pacing car accidents as leading cause of unintentional death

– Ryan DePuy was an athletic, affectionate teenager from Bothell. According to his parents, their soccer-loving son was the last person anyone would expect to experiment with drugs.

Ryan died on April 10, 2008, from a combination of four different prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

His parents, Scott and Charlene DePuy, joined Attorney General Rob McKenna and leaders from the Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation Wednesday to discuss new work to educate parents and kids about the growing danger of prescription drug abuse.

“In past generations, teenagers would raid their parents’ liquor cabinets. Today, kids also raid their parents’ medicine cabinets,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna.  “Unfortunately the results are increasingly deadly.”

According to the 2008 Healthy Youth Survey, more than 4 percent of Washington 8th graders, almost 10 percent of 10th graders, and 12 percent of 12th graders used prescription pain medications to get high in the past 30 days.

“Many parents like the DePuys have joined with SAMA following a child’s addiction or death as a result of prescription drug abuse,” said Dr. Robert Day, founder and chair of the SAMA Foundation. “Together, we are turning the pain these families have faced into awareness that substance addiction is an insidious and devastating chronic disease -- most often attacking young people just as they are approaching adulthood.”

In Washington State, drug overdoses are the leading cause of unintentional death, exceeding those from motor vehicle crashes. According to the Washington State Department of Health, there were 610 motor vehicle crash deaths versus 792 unintentional deaths due to drug overdoses in 2007. Prescription opioids, including Vicodin and OxyContin, were involved in the vast majority of those overdose deaths.

“The intentional abuse of medicines has become an entrenched behavior among American youth,” said Steve Pasierb, president of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. “Fortunately, parents have tremendous power in preventing this behavior by safeguarding their medications.”

The Federal Drug Administration recommends that prescription drugs be disposed of by:

Taking the drugs out of their original containers.

  • Mixing drugs with an undesirable substance, such as cat litter or used coffee grounds.
  • Putting this mixture into a disposable container with a lid, such as an empty margarine tub, or into a sealable bag.
  • Concealing or removing any personal information, including prescription number, on the empty containers by covering it with black permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off. 
  • Placing the sealed container with the mixture, and the empty drug containers, in the trash.

As part of pilot program, some pharmacies in Western Washington accept unwanted medications for disposal.

The Attorney General’s Office has dedicated more than $200,000 from consumer protection settlements with drug companies to help fund prevention programs aimed at prescription drug abuse, including:

  • An educational video for students, teachers, school counselors, law enforcement, and medical professionals produced by the local nonprofit Prescriptions for Life.
  • The 2008 Youth Prevention Summit in Yakima.
  • The 2009 Youth Spring Forum, Thursday, April 30th in Grand Mound, Washington.

This year AG McKenna has partnered with the drug industry to voice radio public service announcements about the proper disposal of prescription medications.



Janelle Guthrie, AGO Communications Director, (360) 586-0725


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