Kenan Thomas is a high school student and dedicated Girl Scout. She is also a huge proponent of safe drug disposal.
In May 2021, Scott had the opportunity to interview Kenan about her reasons for wanting to end the opioid epidemic. Like everyone else in San Diego, she’d been watching the number of opioid overdoses climb during the pandemic. When she had her wisdom teeth removed, it became clear to her why opioid use was out of control.
Kenan’s doctor prescribed her opioids for pain. She used a few, but she didn’t know what to do with the leftovers. Her doctor hadn’t offered guidance. Kenan did some research and learned how to dispose of her leftover meds properly.
However, she recognized that most kids her age would take a different route. They might toss them in the back of the medicine cabinet. They might continue taking them until they were gone. They might decide to give them away—or sell them.
To earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, a Girl Scout must create a sustainable “take action project” for the community. Kenan had found her project in working to put an end to opioid overdoses, and she found some interesting facts along the way:
9 out of 10 addicts begin using during their teen years.
Kenan believes the reason may be that teens are too trusting of their doctors and medicine to believe the drugs could be harmful.
It takes just a couple of weeks to become addicted to oxycontin.
If your doctor prescribes you thirty pills and you take them all, you may be at a higher risk of developing an addiction.
Many unused opioids also remain undisposed .
If you hold onto your prescription meds, your family, friends, or even faux house hunters may gain access to them.
Flushing or trashing prescription opioids can harm the environment .
The drugs can contaminate the waterways and landfills, harming aquatic life and scavengers.
So what could Kenan do to help? She decided to look to the SD Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, which directed her to the Safe Homes Coalition . This organization provides prepaid envelopes for people in the San Diego community, allowing them to dispose of unused prescription medication in a safe way.
Kenan started with the same doctor that removed her wisdom teeth. She asked him if he would consider talking to his patients about proper disposal, and so far the practice has handed out over two hundred envelopes. She’s expanding her reach to other healthcare professionals, and she hopes to make safe disposal education a common discussion in doctors’ offices everywhere.
The goal is similar to that of Madeleine Baudoin Ghorashi (the government public affairs manager for American Medical Response). Madeleine ensures every AMR ambulance carries the envelopes in case they come across someone who needs them, and she has been very supportive of Kenan’s work.
The DEA organizes an event called “National Take Back Day ” twice per year. Kenan wants everyone to know that you can safely dispose of unused medications any day . Find an organization like Safe Homes Coalition or check with your pharmacy.
Don’t let your prescription medication fall into the wrong hands. By safely disposing of drugs, you may just save someone’s life.
If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, reach out to Scott H. Silverman at 619-993-2738.
* Photo: Pixabay