According to 2012 research conducted by the University of Wyoming, drugs, including both legal (i.e., prescription drugs) and illegal, cost Wyoming over $390 million annually in healthcare costs, productivity losses, crime, and other expenses. Additionally, a 2013 Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) report on strategies to stop the epidemic, ranked Wyoming 15th in the country for drug overdose mortality rate. In addition, TFAH found that the number of overdose deaths in Wyoming, most of which are from prescription drugs, tripled since 1999 when the rate was 4.1 per 100,000. Finally, data from state-funded treatment centers shows that the adult treatment admission rate in Fiscal Year 2016 was 103.74 per 100,000, where opiates were the primary presenting problem.
With dedicated partners, we can work to prevent prescription drug abuse by educating prescribers on best practice prescribing protocols and encouraging their use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP); establishing, expanding, maintaining, and promoting safe prescription drug disposal options; and educating communities about the potential harms of drug use, misuse, and abuse.
Over the last several years, we have developed relationships with many key stakeholders at the state and local levels to address this emerging issue. Several current and ongoing efforts are described below.
Prescription Drug Drop Boxes. In collaboration with partners, such as local and state-level law enforcement, pharmacies, and coalition members, we have worked to install, maintain, and promote a total of 38 disposal drop boxes in the state, with at least one in each county. These drop boxes are available for Wyoming residents to safely and responsibly dispose of their controlled substances (e.g., medication for pain, sleep, anxiety, etc.), as well as any other medications that are expired or no longer needed. Additionally, several incinerators have been installed across the state to ensure law enforcement has access to this destruction method, removing transportation and destruction barriers. Thousands of pounds of medication have been collected through these drop boxes, which means we are collectively reducing access and availability of potentially harmful drugs in Wyoming communities.
Prescription Drug Donation Sites. We work collaboratively with the Wyoming Department of Health’s Medication Donation Program to promote the donation of sealed and in date medication that can be used to benefit Wyoming residents who may not otherwise have access to needed medication.
Take-Back Events. Communities across the state work with local partners and stakeholders, such as law enforcement, senior centers, pharmacies, and others to conduct take-back events throughout the year. This provides Wyoming residents with another option for safely disposing of medication. To learn about take-back events in your community, contact a local prevention specialist using the Find Your County.
At-Home Drug Deactivation System. Most recently, we have worked to expand drug disposal options by investing in over 10,000 at-home drug deactivation pouches, being distributed in 14 counties – Big Horn, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Goshen, Hot Springs, Lincoln, Natrona, Niobrara, Sheridan, Sweetwater, Teton, Uinta, and Weston. The deactivation pouches, made by Deterra, “renders unwanted, unneeded narcotics, antibiotics, transdermal patches, and other prescription drugs ineffective for misuse and safe for disposal and the environment.” Using activated carbon and water, the pouches have the ability to deactivate pills, liquids, and patches, allowing for safe disposal in the trash.
Partnership with the Wyoming Prescription Drug Abuse Stakeholders (WRAS)
In addition to local and statewide efforts to educate communities and offer disposal options, the PMO is a member agency on the WRAS, which is a statewide stakeholder group that “advocates for the appropriate use of prescription medication by increasing awareness, providing education, and impacting policy amongst the public, health care professionals, and law enforcement in order to prevent the misuse, abuse, and diversion of prescription medications in Wyoming.”
We work collaboratively with other WRAS members to raise awareness of prescription drug issues, educate prescribers and share continuing education opportunities with them. By promoting use of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), promoting treatment and recovery, engage law enforcement in prevention, and support community efforts related to safe, storage, and disposal.