BORREGO SPRINGS–Borrego Springs High School graduate, Emilia Rangel, 19, has become a fierce promoter of safe disposal options for medications, after spotting an accumulation of old prescription drugs in her mother’s house.
The teen – now a Cal State University San Marcos (CSUSM) freshman — learned many people at the Borrego Springs Senior Center did not know what to do with unneeded prescription drugs, either.
Rangel is studying to be a substance abuse counselor, so she knows that disposing of old drugs quickly and safely keeps them from falling into the hands of people who might misuse or abuse them. Proper disposal is especially important in the case of prescription painkillers which are fueling a nationwide opiate addiction crisis.
In San Diego County, the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force reports that prescription drug abuse deaths now outpace deaths due to vehicle crashes. An addendum to a 2017 Prescription Abuse Report Card compiled by the task force shows that prescription opioids were involved in the deaths of 205 people in the county last year.
Rangel learned Borrego Springs wasn’t participating in Prescription Drug Take Back Days so she set out to change that. Held each spring and fall throughout the county, the free events give people an opportunity to safely dispose of old or unused prescription medications at drive-through collection sites.
“I thought I could do this for my community,” Rangel said about promoting the Take Back.
North Inland Community Prevention Program connected the teen with Flavio Alfaro, a San Diego County Sheriff’s Department evidence technician and coordinator of Take Back Day collection sites in unincorporated communities. The department provides law enforcement service to those areas of the county.
After Alfaro agreed to add a trial Borrego Springs Take Back site, Rangel advertised it in the community and on social media. She also headed home from CSUSM to help at the community’s collection site in October, when Alfaro kept his promise.
Local residents filled one-and-a-half medium-sized, cardboard boxes with unwanted prescription medications during the event. Alfaro said the amount was pretty good for a first-time collection site in a community with less than 4,000 year-round residents.
Rangel is waiting to hear if Borrego Springs Sheriff’s Station will continue to host a Take Back collection site. Meanwhile, the teen is promoting a prescription drug drop box in the station. The box has been available there year-round for at least three years. However, Alfaro said this box draws few prescription drugs.
During visits home, Rangel educates people at the senior center, a local health clinic, and several social organizations about the importance of safely disposing of prescription drugs that are no longer needed.
Prevention advocates want pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and other businesses that profit from prescription drugs to be held responsible for unneeded medications’ collection and safe disposal. Until that happens, advocates are urging consumers to utilize Take Back events and the year-round drop boxes. Alfaro praised Rangel’s efforts to get involved in the issue, saying it’s unusual for a young person to be interested in the issue.
The Borrego Springs Sheriff’s Station is at 571 Palm Canyon Drive in Borrego Springs. A complete list of year-round prescription drug drop boxes is available at http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/deh/waste/pdf/chd/HHW/Drug%20collection%20box%20brochure%20english%202.pdf.
More information about prescription drug abuse is available at www.sandiegorxabusetaskforce.org. For help with prescription drug abuse and addiction, call the county’s Access & Crisis Line at (800) 724-7240.