Pharmacists educating teens on prescription medications

Pharmacists educating teens on prescription medications

Many public health officials cite the abuse of prescription opioid medications by people initially prescribed them for legitimate medical needs as a driving force behind the resurgence in heroin use — and lethal poisonings — around the country. As a CVS Pharmacy supervisor, Cortney Spittal has been deeply involved in the efforts of that pharmacy retailer to prevent the diversion of opioid medications for nonmedical use.

Spittal is now involved in a CVS program designed to educate teens on the risks involved in taking prescription medications outside the direction of their doctor.


Spittal will be one of the many speakers at the second annual Drug and Violence Awareness Expo at the Carroll County Agricultural Center's Shipley Arena today, April 28. It's a collaboration involving the local business community, law enforcement, prevention professionals, people in recovery and concerned parents. The event is aimed at bringing the community together to grasp the reality and scope of the problems of drug abuse and domestic violence in Carroll, as well as to formulate solutions.

The expo will take place 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and will also feature speakers from the State's Attorney's Office, the Carroll County Health Department and parent activists. Spittal will be presenting at 11:15 a.m.

The Times caught up with Spittal to learn more about her presentation and what pharmacists are doing to help keep people safe.

Q: You are a CVS Pharmacy Supervisor. How long have you been in that role and what does that look like in practice?

A: I have been a CVS Pharmacy Supervisor for almost four years, prior to that I was a pharmacy manager for three. In my current role I oversee 18 of the CVS pharmacy locations in Carroll, Baltimore, Howard, Frederick, and Montgomery counties. The main purpose of my position is to provide guidance and direction to the pharmacy managers who are responsible for the daily activities to meet the needs of our patients. Ultimately my goal is to ensure that our pharmacists have the support and resources needed to keep the community they serve on the path to better health.

Q: The diversion of prescription drugs, both opioids and benzodiazepines such as Xanax, has come to be appreciated as a new gateway to, and driver behind the resurgence of heroin use in Carroll County and throughout the country. What does this look like — the doctor shopping, people trying to obtain multiple prescriptions from multiple pharmacies, etc. — look like from the point of view of someone trying to run a network of pharmacies?

A: CVS pharmacists are committed to helping the communities we serve address and prevent prescription drug abuse. Pharmacists are obligated to refuse to fill prescriptions they feel are not being used for legitimate medical purposes. We take this responsibility seriously, and exercise it judiciously on behalf of our patients, their family members and the community.

Our company, CVS Health, is also working to help make sure patients know how to properly take and dispose of medications. CVS Health operates the Medication Disposal for Safer Communities Program in conjunction with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Through this program, local police departments can apply to receive a drug collection unit to help their communities safely dispose of unwanted medications, including controlled substances. Law enforcement drug collection programs help rid communities of unwanted medications that may otherwise be diverted, abused or contaminate our water supply. Since this program began in 2014, we have donated more than 500 drug collection units to law enforcement partners across the U.S., resulting in the safe disposal of more than 35 metric tons of unwanted medication to date.

Q: Do CVS pharmacies in our region utilize the Maryland Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database to try to curtail people seeking multiple prescriptions of narcotic drugs?

A: The Maryland PDMP database has played an enormous part in helping our local CVS pharmacists identify individuals who may not be managing their narcotic medication use appropriately. Again, our goal is to work with our healthcare professional counterparts; physicians, nurses, and practitioners of the like, to improve overall health outcomes. As a company we actively require all of our pharmacists to apply for access to ensure they have the tools needed to make the best decision when dispensing controlled substance medications.

Q: Your presentation at the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo has to do with the misuse of prescription drugs and the misperceptions that sometime surround these medications in contrast with something like heroin purchased on the street. How did this presentation come about and what are some of the important points you will cover?

A: One of our most important approaches to drug abuse prevention is the Pharmacists Teach program, which is what brings me to the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo. Usually presented to high school students, this program focuses on the idea that one choice students make can change everything in their lives and encourages them not to abuse drugs.

Q: How does this apply to what's going on in Carroll County right now? Are there actionable steps people can take based on this presentation?

A: Our Pharmacists Teach presentation is generally targeted to a high school-aged audience because providing prevention education early on is so important to effective drug abuse prevention. This program communicates that drug abuse often comes about as a result of peer pressure. When students are more informed about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the consequences of peer pressure they are empowered. A recent study found that one in four teens report having used or misused prescription drugs at least once in their lifetime, with 50 percent being under the age of 15. Our goal is to prevent students from taking that first step. We are pleased to partner with schools across the country on this program and we encourage school administrators and teachers in Carroll County to visit to learn more about bringing the program to their school.


Q: What's something you feel people do not understand about prescription medications, opioids in particular, that they should understand or appreciate better?

A: There are three important things for people to remember about prescription drug abuse prevention: First, take your medication exactly as directed and always follow your health care provider's instructions. Second, store your medication securely. Keep prescription medications in a secure location in your home so that they cannot be taken by others. Third, dispose of your medication properly. Unused or expired medication should not be kept in the home. To prevent abuse and accidental poisoning, always safely discard leftover medication.

If you go:


What: The second annual Drug and Violence Awareness Expo

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 28

Where: Carroll County Agricultural Center Shipley Arena, 706 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster

Presentation schedule:

10:30-11 a.m. — Drug trends in Carroll County

11:15-11:45 a.m. — Youth opioid prevention

Noon-12:30 p.m. — Ganging up on drugs and violence

12:45-1:15 p.m. — Carroll County gangs awareness

1:30-2 p.m. — Understanding the impact of violence on youth

2:15-2:45 p.m. — Domestic violence and the community

3-3:30 p.m. — Rape — A silent epidemic

3:45-4:15 p.m. — Domestic violence and seniors

4:30-5 p.m. — Turning tragedy into healing by helping others

5:15-5:45 p.m. — Dispelling myths about domestic violence and child abuse

6-6:15 p.m. — Ceremony

6:30-6:45 p.m. — FoolProof

6:45-7:30 p.m. — Special presentation with state's attorney