Insurer raises awareness of prescription drug abuse risks during Mental Health Awareness Month
As part of Mental Health Awareness Month, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana reminds Louisianians about the importance of prescription drug safety and the resources available to help those dealing with substance abuse.
Residents across the state are struggling with medication abuse, especially opioids. Opioids are drugs commonly prescribed to treat pain. Due to the increase of prescribing these types of medications, there has been widespread misuse of opioids across the United States. Here in Louisiana, there are higher rates of opioid prescriptions than the national average. In 2020, 68 opioid prescriptions were written for every 100 people, compared to a national rate of 43, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
To help Baton Rouge residents safely dispose of their unwanted medications, local organizations joined a nationwide effort and hosted Drug Take Back Day on April 30. At the event, Blue Cross and partners from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, local law enforcement agencies, members of the Baton Rouge Health District and other community partners collected nearly 1,000 pounds of unwanted medications.
“Drug Take Back Day and other safe disposal events are important because they get unwanted and potentially harmful medications out of people’s homes and off the streets,” said Kandyce Cowart, Blue Cross Special Investigations manager. “If you were unable to attend a Drug Take Back Day event, there are other ways to safely dispose of your unused and expired prescriptions all year long.”
Blue Cross partners with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and local law enforcement agencies to install secure and anonymous drug drop boxes throughout the state. See a map of these locations to find one close to you.
Prescription Drugs and Behavioral Health
The rate of opioid-related overdose deaths has continued to increase, according to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics. Nearly 1,300 people died of opioid overdoses in Louisiana during 2021. This rate is 36.71% higher than the national average.
Along with getting rid of unwanted prescriptions, you can practice medication safety in your home by taking drugs only as prescribed and storing them in a secure place where children and pets can’t get to them.
“Never share your prescription drugs with others or take medication intended for other people. Tell the doctor if your pain feels worse or you find yourself taking more of the drug to feel relief,” said Brice Mohundro, Blue Cross’ Pharmacy Population Health manager. “Addiction develops slowly over time, so know the warnings of when you or someone in your life may be developing a dependency.”
A person may be overusing or misusing pain drugs if he or she:
1. Takes a drug in any other way or for another reason than how the doctor directed.
2. Is happy one minute and angry the next.
3. Sleeps more or less and at different times than usual.
4. Borrows drugs from someone else.
5. Asks for the same pain drug prescriptions from different doctors.
6. Behaves dangerously or risks others’ safety to get more of the drug.
“If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use, reach out for help as soon as you start noticing the signs,” Mohundro said. “Early intervention can have a significant impact on recovery.”
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any concerns you have about a prescription drug, from side effects to dependency. He or she will help you reduce your medication carefully or prescribe another drug that may be safer for you.
As part of the insurer’s ongoing efforts to bring awareness to the opioid epidemic, Cowart and Mohundro will present at the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators’ (NADDI) upcoming Drug Diversion Investigation Training, May 24 – 25 in New Orleans.Cowart is president of the Louisiana Chapter of NADDI and the organization’s South Central Regional director. This includes the six-state region of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Insurers also offer resources to help treat substance abuse.
If you’re a Blue Cross member:
- Call the 24/7 Substance Use Member Hotline at 1-877-326-2458 to speak with a clinical professional. The hotline is operated by New Directions, an independent vendor that provides behavioral health services for Blue Cross and its subsidiaries.
If you’re not a Blue Cross member:
- Call your health plan or an Employee Assistance Program if you have one at your workplace.
- Find help in any parish at www.opioidhelpla.org, a program of the Louisiana Department of Health.
Behavioral Health Resources
Often, substance abuse coincides with mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Blue Cross has several programs and services to help members stay well and get help for their behavioral health needs.
Blue Cross has an in-house care team who support members dealing with long-term health needs, serious illnesses or acute injuries. Blue Cross health coaches work with members to find social service community organizations and resources close to them, connect with behavioral health providers in their network or build up skills to be resilient in difficult situations. To learn more about Care Management programs and services or to sign up for health coaching, visit www.bcbsla.com/Stronger. Members do not pay anything to work with a health coach.
Online Behavioral Health Visits
Blue Cross members can use BlueCare to have online visits with psychology or psychiatry providers who are trained and certified in telehealth care. BlueCare behavioral health providers can help with anxiety, depression, stress, grief, substance abuse, coping with life transitions, couples counseling and more. Create a BlueCare account at www.BlueCareLA.com or with the BlueCare (one word) mobile app for Apple and Android devices. Then, simply log in and schedule a behavioral health appointment. Blue Cross also has network behavioral health providers who treat patients through telehealth. Ask your provider about options or check the online directory to find an in-network behavioral health provider near you.
For more information about Drug Safety:
Visit Blue Cross’ Safer Pain Care site for more information about medication safety, or ask your health care providers or pharmacists for advice. Other drug safety resources include:
- The CDC’s medication safety information page
- The American Association of Poison Control Centers
- The National Poison Control Hotline, 1-800-222-1222
Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short health videos on prescription drug safety and other health topics. Subscribe to know when new videos are added. Follow Blue Cross on social media @BCBSLA. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past three years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media.