TAYLORSVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Nearly 60,000 children under age five go to emergency rooms annually due to poisoning by unsecured medications. In addition to that, after someone is prescribed a drug for pain following a procedure a local nurse says some people never stop taking it, end up addicted and changing the course of their life.
"It’s way bigger than just what we’re dealing with inside the operating room,” said Jana Bailey, APRN, CRNA, president of the Kentucky Association of Nurse and Anesthetists.
Bailey said up to 19 percent of people who have surgery for the first time and are prescribed an opioid will continue to use pain medication even when they’re healed. For some, it means addiction that could become fatal, like it did for Bailey’s family friend.
"If he didn’t have that initial exposure, if he had not been able to continue his addiction by taking medicine in cabinets or they were properly disposed perhaps he still would have been alive,” Bailey said.
Her friend died from an overdose, but shared his first high came from the pain killers he was given as a child when he got his wisdom teeth removed. His story made Bailey take action to save other lives and prevent addiction for people like Kristen Barrow who needed help after surgery.
"I have never experienced pain compared to that,” Barrow said. After her first c-section Barrow was given painkillers.
"I was anxious,” Barrow said. “I had never taken them before and of course I had heard about addiction and as a new mom that's not a road I wanted to go down."
Barrow said she needed the relief to be a good mother in that moment. She never got addicted but when her home was broken into and her medicine cabinets were raided, she learned the power misused drugs had over people.
"It was clear they were looking for pill bottles,” Barrow said.
“They keep them in their home just in case they need them. And that’s a problem it’s a mindset we used to have,” Bailey said. “It was OK and safe then, but nowadays we know that’s no longer safe.”
Bailey started the Opioid Stewardship Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to educate, show alternatives and give people in Kentucky a mixture called Dispose Rx that lets them dissolve their drugs immediately after they are no longer needed.
Combined with water, Dispose Rx turns harmful drugs into a gooey substance that you won't and can't use.
The initiative also works to prevent overuse of opioids and keep them away from vulnerable people, allowing nurses and doctors to make an impact outside the operation room.