The success of Seabrook Police Department's first-in-the-state prescription drug take-back program has sparked New Hampshire's congresswoman to file a bill to take it nationwide.
Yesterday, New Hampshire's First District Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, D-Rochester, met with Seabrook police to announce the filing of her bill. Shea-Porter, the vice chairwoman of the House's Addiction Caucus, said it could take more than one attempt before the bill's passed by both House and Senate, but she's in it for the long haul.
The problem of prescription drug addiction costs human lives as well as money, as communities pay the bill for the crimes and health issues that revolve around drug abuse, she said. The Seabrook Police Department's program of collecting leftover prescription drugs is an important way to keep addictive drugs that are no longer needed from being stolen from family medicine chests, she said.
"Anyone who denies there's a problem is either kidding himself or herself, or else they have a separate agenda," she said. "They have only to look around."
Shea-Porter said she was horrified when she learned that in New Hampshire there are more deaths from drug overdoses annually than from car accidents.
The bill would provide $5 million in federal grant funds for law enforcement agencies that want to institute prescription drug prevention programs. Along with money to install drug drop-box systems similar to one in Seabrook's police station lobby, grants can provide money to run awareness programs to reach out to youth and parents.
"I think the education part is the biggest thing," said Seabrook Lt. Michael Gallagher, who started Seabrook's program and was contacted by Shea-Porter to review the bill prior to filing. "Many kids think taking prescription drugs (for recreation) is safe because they're prescribed by doctors. They're only safe if they're taken for the purposes prescribed."
Shea-Porter said the money for education will make the issue more visible. For example, parents who are fearful when their children get their driver's licenses and have access to cars, should be just as fearful if they have access to the family medicine chests containing dangerous drugs that could kill them as quickly as a car crash.
Shea-Porter, who praised Seabrook police for its "Yankee ingenuity" in creating the first drug take-back program in the state, said the measure is one tool in helping keep unused prescription drugs off the street. Young people, especially, start their potentially deadly habit by stealing drugs from the medicine cabinets of family members and friends, she said.
"I'm very impressed," Shea-Porter said. "I congratulate the Seabrook Police Department."
The program was started by Gallagher after the town experienced five prescription drug deaths in 14 months. Gallagher approached police Chief Patrick Manthorn for his OK after learning of a successful program in Missouri that in one month collected 20,000 pounds of unused medication.
Both Gallagher and Manthorn said yesterday that the first critical part of solving the prescription drug abuse problem is admitting there is one, then building law enforcement strategies.
Gallagher and Manthorn have said 90 percent of drug abuse in Seabrook comes not from illegal drugs, like heroin or cocaine, but from prescription drugs. According to national statistics, more teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana.
On Sept. 1, 2009, with the help of community volunteers, Seabrook police installed an opening in the lobby wall leading to a secure metal drop-box on the other side. The box was built for police for free by a local welder.
Anyone can visit the police station with no questions asked, no names requested and no hassles. They can drop off unneeded medication into the box anonymously, Gallagher said, turn and leave. It's as simple as that.
The first month, nearly 500 controlled/narcotic drugs were collected.
"It's been almost a year," Gallagher said yesterday. "We've collected tens of thousands of drugs."
Deaths from prescription drugs
Christopher L'Esperance, 20, formerly of Seabrook, died in his Groveland apartment in May 2007 from an overdose of the prescription drug methadone.
Lloyd T. Chapin Jr., 17, of Seabrook, died in February 2006, at Exeter Hospital, after lying in a coma for 10 days due to an overdose of methadone. His parents, Miliki and Lloyd Chapin, Jr., were at his bedside holding his hand.
Kevin Cassidy Jr., 21, of Amesbury died in Seabrook in September 2005, from the lethal mixture of alcohol and oxycodone, a prescription drug known also by the brand names OxyContin, Percocet or Percodan.
Jimmy Manazir, 29, of Haverhill died in Seabrook in March 2005, after consuming a fatal combination of alcohol and Valium.
Ryan Bickford, 18, of Hampton died in Seabrook in March 2005, from a deadly cocktail of beer and the prescription drug fentanyl.