Written by Jessica Grant, Director of Family Services for the Catawba Nation
Catawba Elders in our community are wisdom-keepers. They play a vital role in preserving Catawba Culture, traditions, and beliefs. They also educate our community by modeling behaviors that will continue to contribute to our survival for another 6000 years. One of the ways Elders have and can continue to, model behavior is by safely storing and disposing of prescription drugs. One of the challenges faced by the Catawba Nation, and many others in Indian County, is substance misuse. We now know that youth are becoming addicted more and more to prescription drugs by misusing family, friends, and their own unused or expired prescriptions. In Indian Country, we understand the importance of Tribal Elders guiding our youth. To do that, our Elders must stay current on the challenges of the Nation. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) in one of their most recent studies, over 5,700 youth had reported using prescription pain relievers for the first time without them being prescribed to them by a doctor.
Diabetes and heart disease have become the two most widespread health risks in our community. Elders’ cabinets are filled with current and left-over prescriptions – whether that be from hospital stays, surgeries, post rehabilitations, or active prescriptions for pain that are taken daily by an individual. Many Elders tend to keep medications including opioids like morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and codeine. Keeping these medications makes them a potential target by youth in their families to misuse them themselves or to give or sell to others. Safe medication storage and disposal diminish these opportunities.
Safety measures such as pill counters, pill organizers, and medicine cabinets that may be out of reach for younger children have helped in the prevention of substance misuse. Even with these precautions, youth have still managed to obtain prescription medication from their family members, friends, or continue to take older prescriptions that were previously prescribed to them by a doctor. It is vital that our Elders model behavior such as counting pills often, disposing of medication that they no longer need, and only taking medications that are prescribed to them.
On April 30th, the Nation will be hosting a Drug Take-Back Day. We encourage everyone to attend this event – especially Elders that currently have expired, old, or unused medications in their homes. Medications can be brought to the Catawba Nation Food Distribution Center from 11 AM – to 1 PM to be safely disposed of by the event staff. Information will be distributed on the safe storage of medication as well. Educating Elders on safe medication storage and disposal will, in turn, allow youth to grow and thrive in our community without the temptation to misuse prescription medications.