OLYMPIA—It's a catch-22 for many families, what should you do with unused prescription pills? If you flush them down the toilet, they'll hurt the environment but if your teenager gets into them things could be even worse.
Washington Lawmakers are now considering a new program to dispose of unwanted drugs. It's a program backed by several families who've seen the downside of keeping these drugs around. Rebecca Runyon and Andrew Maggard are still struggling to deal with the loss of their son, Tylor, 5 months ago. The 18-year-old died of a drug overdose in August.
"We've had relatives call us and tell us we're murderers and we've killed our son," Maggard explained. "People are very cruel when it comes to something like this."
Week's before Tylor's death, Runyan lost her father to cancer. The couple cleaned out his home, but didn't know how to safely toss out his old prescriptions. If they flush them or throw them in the trash, they could end up in the groundwater. They placed the pill bottles in a box and hid it in their home.
Before they could find a safe way to toss the pills, Tylor and his friends took several of them. The teens thought they would get a "high" similar to other prescription pills. Instead, they started experiencing organ failure. The pills, that are intended for those with the condition gout, caused major organ failure. Runyon couldn't believe how her son looked after ingesting dozens of pills. "I looked at my son, he had purple right here and his lips were blue," she explained. "I said what did you guys take?"
The teens were reluctant to admit what they had ingested, but when Runyon found out she took her son to the hospital. He was airlifted to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, just before the doctors sedated him, his mother told him not to worry "He goes mom; I love you and i said I love you, too." She knew his condition was bad, but nothing can prepare a parent to lose their child.
At the Washington Poison Center, they get more calls about medication poisoning then anything else. Executive Director Jim Williams said too many of the cases involve teens trying out meds that they know nothing about. "They think they're safe" Williams explained. "A doctor has prescribed them; your parents were taking these; these must be safe for you" he said as he tried to explain the misguided idea some teens have. "They don't understand that any medication can be a poison."
The Legislature is considering a bill that would set-up a drug disposal program, so unused drugs could be safely destroyed. The drug makers would have to pay for it, but lawmakers say it wont cost much. "They would design a way to take these back and bring them to a hazardous material incinerator," Senator Adam Kline explained. Kline ((D-Seattle) believes the drug companies are fighting it out of "greed".
Lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry testified in front of a Senate committee and said they don't believe there's enough evidence that the programs solve any problems. There are similar programs in Maine and British Columbia.
Tylor's parents went to Olympia to testify in support of the legislation "I can't let him die, in vain" Maggard explained. Tylor's two friends survived the overdose. His parents say they'll keep fighting to tell others about what they've been through and hopefully prevent other teens from trying the same thing with medications.