Getting Rid of Unneeded Prescriptions Safely

November 29, 2010

Recently my father-in-law passed away after a long illness, and one of the tasks associated with taking care of family business was to get rid of all his prescription medicine. As he had been in poor health for several years, we packed up a cardboard box full of pills, inhalers and other prescriptions, and set about finding how to get rid of them safely.

As a start, I called the Los Angeles County Public Health Department; they referred me to the LA County Sheriff’s Office. I called the number on their website. They referred me to a local Sheriff’s Station in East Los Angeles. I called this office, and after a couple of transfers I was speaking with one of the deputies. She told me that they had a safe disposal box in front of their station.

A few minutes later, I drove to the station and sure enough, there were two bins: one marked for “illegal drugs” and one for prescription drugs. I disposed of my father-in-law’s vast collection (including some morphine) in the prescription bin, wondering as I did so who would come to dispose of illegal drugs in the other bin.

Even though it took me a few phone calls to get the right information, this was a simple process. I was informed that many, but not all, of the Sheriff’s Substations in Southern California have these disposal bins conveniently placed near their entrances.

This seems like a good idea! Perhaps we could start a campaign to make this happen in Oregon. What do you think?


Prevention Wins In 2010 Election

November 3, 2010

I was heartened to see the outcome of several ballot measures that could have had a serious negative impact on teen substance abuse.

In Oregon, voters rejected Ballot Measure 74, which would have created a system of unlimited dispensaries for medical marijuana. Proponents said it would help patients get their marijuana. Opponents said it would raise the prices for patients significantly, exempt dispensary operators and their staff from any prosecution, create major money generating operations, all the while it would increase the availability to vulnerable youth.

California voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have made it the first state to legalize the personal use and possession of marijuana.

In Washington state, the voters look to have turned down two initiatives that would privatize liquor sales and overhaul beer- and wine-distribution rules. Had they passed, the number of alcohol outlets in the state would have increased ten-fold.  Again, the issue is ready availability to youth as well as problem drinkers.

A defeat for those measures is a win for our youth and a win for prevention.

– Tom

Suicide – A Surviving Son’s Story

October 12, 2010

(Editor’s note: 23 years ago Nick’s father chose to kill himself. That decision has left permanent heartache and trouble for all those left behind. Here is Nick’s story)

When I was almost 3, my father killed himself. Although I have come a long way since then, his loss has been a constant uphill battle that unfortunately will always be part of my life.

When I was younger, I was never really able to deal with my emotions of anger, sadness, and loneliness in a healthy way. I grew up an angry kid; I would get into fights and punch holes in walls and although my mom constantly tried to get me help, I was never able to really deal with the true pain I felt inside. Even to this day I could never truly understand how a father could leave behind three boys, my two half- brothers and me, all of whom were talented, funny, and bright. Besides relying on one another, we all turned to sports as a way of coping and to this day it infuriates me that my dad never once saw me play ball.

Another situation that used to bother me was spending time at my friends’ homes and watching their interactions with their fathers and realizing that this would never be me. One situation that has stayed with me was a time when I was interviewing for application to a private school; during the interview I totally disengaged. On the way home my mother asked what happened and I told her that every kid there had their mother and father to support them and I didn’t feel like I fit in.

I truly never understood how a person could take his own life until I was 15 and all my feelings of anger, frustration, and abandonment resulted in my own attempt at suicide. Fortunately, my mom got me the help I needed and I was able to move on in a positive manner.

Growing up without a father was never easy and there were times in my life that I felt so much pain I couldn’t bear it. This situation has forced me to become an extremely strong person. I’m independent and have worked hard to accomplish goals in my life.

Although I have a great relationship with my mother and brothers, it will never compensate for the pain I have experienced growing up without a dad.

– Nick

Coming Out to Acceptance

October 9, 2010

I admit it. I was once homophobic.

I was raised in a culture where homosexuals were tormented and beaten up. This was during an era when there was nothing remotely acceptable or chic about homosexuality in our society. Just loneliness and humiliation.

Then I took a job in San Francisco in the mid-70’s. During the next 10 years I interacted with all kinds of people – straight, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transvestite, transgender, you name it.

And I discovered something: Their sexual orientation presented no threat to me and was irrelevant to our personal and working relationships.

People are likable, trustworthy, loyal, honest or not. A friend is a friend and a jerk is a jerk regardless of their sexual orientation. And, exactly as in the heterosexual world, sexual preference had no bearing on me unless a physical relationship was considered.

I also became convinced that homosexuality was not a choice.

Who, in their right mind, would choose to be a pariah in their society? Even today it is a life that can be filled with anxiety, rejection and insecurity. No one would “choose” that. Heterosexuality, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, it’s the way a human comes wired. To live as someone other than you are is to live life a life of frustration and to forfeit your right to the pursuit of happiness.

I think of one of my cousins. From the time he was in preschool, he was effeminate – only the word I was thinking was not very kind. He eventually accepted his sexual orientation, but only after being married, fathering a child and getting divorced. I have often thought of what a tough life that’s been, and how much happiness he forfeited because of societal pressures. It’s a sad thought.

Sadder still is the thought that some, faced with rejection and humiliation, have taken their own lives in desolation. The most recent high profile instance of this was the suicide of 18-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi. It must stop.

This Monday is National Coming Out Day. National Coming Out Day is an internationally-observed civil awareness day for coming out and discussion about gay, lesbian, bisexual, asexual and trans-gender (LGBT) issues. It is observed by members of the LGBT communities and their supporters on October 11 every year.

I’m a straight man who supports those who walk a different path than I. Please welcome discussions on this topic within your sphere of influence. And offer love instead of fear, rejection and contempt.

Come out to acceptance, love and a happier future.


A Rare Chance to Stop an Epidemic Before It Gets Out of Hand

September 27, 2010

In the field of drug abuse prevention we’re always playing “catch-up” – tackling seemingly unstoppable juggernauts that have years of momentum. We almost never have a chance to get ahead of an emerging drug of abuse.

We have that opportunity now.

“Synthetic marijuana,” sold under various names, like “K2” and “Spice,” is quickly establishing a foothold among our Nation’s youth. At Oregon Partnership we recently received a call from a mother whose son woke her up in the middle of the night, screaming, convulsing and hallucinating from smoking synthetic marijuana. At the emergency room his heart was racing, his breathing was labored and he was begging his mother “Please don’t let me die!”

Synthetic Marijuana is cheap. It’s undetectable by traditional marijuana (THC) screening methods. And, in most states, it’s legal. In fact, youth refer to it as “legal marijuana” and word is spreading quickly that it defies the usual detection screenings.

It is sold in head shops and hookah stores as incense with a broad wink and a note that it’s “not for human consumption.” But people, seeking a high, are smoking it, and some have been showing up in emergency rooms with agitation, hallucinations, vomiting, high blood pressure and elevated heart rates. One of the chemical compounds sprayed on synthetic marijuana – JWH-018 – binds with the brain’s receptors that bind THC, but at four to five times the impact of THC.

Several countries, including Britain, France and Germany have banned K2 and similar products. Additionally, nine states have also banned these products and several others have legislation in development to ban them.

We need to seize the opportunity to get ahead of this problem by taking similar action across the United States.

– Tom

Taco Bell & Portland Trailblazers Golf Tournament Benefits Oregon Partnership.

September 23, 2010
#1 NBA draft choice Greg Oden visits OP event

OP President Judy Cushing, Portland Trailblazer Greg Oden, OP Special Events Director Barbara Caplan

How cool is this?

Taco Bell and The Portland Trailblazers teamed up with 179 golfers to raise money for Oregon Partnership’s mission to end substance abuse and suicide. The 9th Annual “Bell-Blazers Classic” was blessed with good weather and nearly-perfect course conditions at The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club on Tuesday, September 21. A full complement of celebrities joined in to make it a very enjoyable day.

What really stood out for me was the sincerity of the participants.

After most tournaments the golfers scatter, but at the Bell-Blazers Classic they stayed to hear about the drug prevention work of Oregon Partnership. Tom Cook, the head of the Taco Bell Franchise holders association , made an emotional personal endorsement about the importance of what we do to combat the ravages of drugs and alcohol. He challenged the participants to step up and join in that work with their personal donations. Mr. Cook also made a point to emphasize the Military Helpline ( and the fact that 20% of our nation’s suicides are veterans.

It was moving to see so many people embrace these efforts with their hearts, minds and wallets.

– Tom

Teens craft films to address issues in the Portland Community

September 3, 2010

This summer I had the wonderful opportunity to work with talented, creative, passionate and open-minded  teens who want to give back to their communities.

Teens met regularly to discuss the issues affecting the Portland community and then created short films to share what they learned with the public. The films premiere this month.

Students Creating Entertainment for Neighborhood Empowerment (SCENE) is as unique as the youth who named the summer program. The SCENE team was made up not only of excellent students, but a wonderful collaboration between several organizations that share their passion to give back to the community through youth and make positive impressions on them. For example, the Portland Police Bureau has developed an solid relationship with the SCENE teens who are now committed to saying a friendly “Hello” to all police officers they see in passing.

The teens not only learned the issues affecting the Portland community through weekly curriculum, but learned how to develop their ideas into short films from an exceptional team of film makers from Portland Community Media. The SCENE teens also learned how to channel their artistic traits with the help of the FreeArts team.

Most people might imagine a group of teens sitting in a summer , heads in their books or looking out the window at the weather. Let me dispel that, these teens were fully engaged and the summer was a blast! The SCENE team interviewed people on the streets, enjoyed great food during social time, learned about drug prevention, developed relationships with community members and made new friends with students from other schools.

SCENE is  one of the best projects I have had the pleasure of being a part of and I look forward to seeing the SCENE team again!

– Angela