Experts speak on the dangers of prescription drugs for Rancho Santa Fe School’s Red Ribbon Week


By Karen Billing

Staff Writer

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimates that 4,000 teens begin experimenting with prescription drugs every day. Of those teenagers, 70 percent who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends or family.

With those startling statistics in mind, R. Roger Rowe School brought in several guest speakers during its annual Red Ribbon Week to talk to parents and students about this disturbing trend. The school played host to Nancy Sapp, president of the National Family Partnership (and a Rowe grandmother); Marsha Stanton, director of advocacy for King Pharmaceuticals; and Francine Haight, a San Diego mother who has fought against prescription drug abuse after losing her 18-year-old son to an overdose in 2001.

All three are sending a message about the misconception that if drugs are prescribed by a doctor that means they are safe to take.

“These drugs are not safe,” said Haight. “When used inappropriately they are very, very dangerous. These drugs will destroy your life and maybe even take it.”

Stanton and Sapp have worked together on the Lock Your Meds campaign, encouraging people to make it more difficult to access drugs in their home. They said teenagers are finding drugs to experiment with in their grandparents’ medicine cabinet or even from their mom’s purse.

“In everyone’s homes we have all kinds of medicines,” Stanton said. “ We’re finding it’s too easy to get to them. It doesn’t mean you have to lock them up but parents need to be careful.” Haight’s son, Ryan, overdosed on a mixture of valium, vicodin and morphine that he was able to purchase online as a senior at Grossmont High School. Since Ryan’s death, Haight helped pass new legislature for online pharmacies in 2009. The Ryan Haight Bill is an act that provided new disclosure standards for online pharmacies and barred sites from selling or dispensing prescriptions to consumers based solely on an online questionnaire. Haight said Ryan’s message would be that “you can save a friend.” She told the students that if they knew someone who is experimenting with drugs, they should say something, tell them how the drug could affect them and alert an adult.

Through the Lock Your Meds campaign, Rowe students and parents were given inventory cards for families to fill out and make sure they know what is inside their medicine cabinets.

“We want everybody in the community to be more watchful of what they have,” Sapp said.

Some tips from Lock Your Meds on how to keep your home safe:

  • Safeguard all medicines that have to remain at home by monitoring quantities and controlling access.
  • If your child is on prescribed medication, set clear rules such as not sharing and always following proper dosage
  • Warn youngsters that taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs without a doctor’s supervision can be just as dangerous as taking street drugs
  • Properly dispose of old, expired or unused medicines. Do not flush medications down the drain or toilet. A 24-hour, 7-day-a-week prescription drug drop-off box is located at Carmel Valley’s Northwestern Division, 12592 El Camino Real, San Diego, 92130. For more information on Lock Your Meds program,