Editorial roundup: Friday, Nov. 1, 2019


Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:

The Times and Democrat

Oct. 30

Returning unused prescription drugs will prevent tragedies

Oct. 26 was National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, a time to safely dispose of medicines that are no longer needed.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-inspired event featured locations manned by officers at which people could bring medications - no questions asked.

Getting unneeded medicines out of the household mix can be important.

"There's no question that South Carolina has an opioid crisis, and this is a way anyone with unused opioids can fight that," S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said. "We know that most people who are prescribed opioids don't use all of them. We also know that most people who start using heroin did so after first becoming addicted to prescription opioids."

According to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, unused or expired prescription medications are a public safety issue that can lead to potential accidental poisoning, misuse or overdose. Studies show that over half of abused prescription drugs are obtained - often unknowingly - from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.

Take-back programs help reduce childhood overdoses, restrict household drug theft, limit the accumulation of drugs by the elderly, protect the environment, reduce pharmaceutical contamination of fresh water and eliminate waste.

But what if you did not participate on Saturday? What do you do if you wish to get rid of old drugs?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises first to follow disposal instructions in the product package insert. If that is not available and you simply don't know what to do, follow these steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:

- Mix medicines (do not crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as dirt, cat litter or used coffee grounds.

- Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag.

- Throw the container in your household trash.

- Delete all personal information on the prescription label of empty pill bottles or medicine packaging, then dispose of the container.

A small number of medicines have specific instructions to immediately flush down the toilet when no longer needed. These medicines may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom they were prescribed.

South Carolina has a crisis with the abuse of drugs, particularly opioids. From 2017 to 2018, the number of opioid-involved overdose deaths increased by 9% (748 to 816), according to DHEC data. Disposing of old prescription drugs is one way everyone can be a part of preventing another tragedy.

The Post and Courier

Oct. 28

Improving interstate congestion problems will help economy

No one likes to sit in bumper-to-bumper traffic. No one likes the idea that businesses might bypass South Carolina because of traffic congestion. So we're glad that state lawmakers are again turning their attention to our roads.

As The Post and Courier's Seanna Adcox reports, Senate Finance Chairman Hugh Leatherman has assembled a special committee to find a way to reduce congestion on the interstates, which he said has put the state at risk of "choking off the (economic) growth we are experiencing."

Unfortunately, the solutions we typically consider probably won't work. It's unlikely that simply adding more lanes or even building whole new roads could ever get congestion under control: Our population is growing nearly as fast as we can build lanes, and that's before you factor in induced demand: the added traffic that new lanes and roads create.

And even if it were possible to reduce congestion by building more highway capacity where state legislators think it's needed, that would either divert money from more important road projects already in the works - many of them focused on safety rather than mere convenience - or else require billions of dollars in new taxes that there's no reason to believe legislators would approve.

It was just two years ago that the Legislature increased the state's gas tax and other road-related fees to fund a long-overdue road repair and expansion program that critics said was woefully inadequate even at the time. Every penny of that money is spoken for to repair dangerous bridges and crumbling roads, to straighten out deadly intersections and, yes, to resurface and widen interstates. And still, Sen. Nikki Setzler told the panel gathered this month to address congestion, we have "catastrophic needs" that must be addressed so we won't be "left behind the rest of the Southeast."

He may be right. But if we want to reduce congestion, we have to think about more than simply increasing capacity. We have to think about reducing demand. We have to rethink transportation - all of us, as individuals, as communities, as a state.

We have to embrace public transportation - which the S.C. Transportation Department seems particularly reluctant to do, perhaps because the Legislature has so little interest in it. We have to think more carefully about whether, where and when to drive. We have to consolidate trips and time them to avoid the worst traffic and, yes, rearrange our work schedules.

This summer, the State Ports Authority started opening the gates at its North Charleston and Wando Welch terminals an hour earlier, at 5 a.m., in order to reduce traffic on I-26, I-526 and surrounding arteries and to save time for truckers by making it easier for them to avoid those roads during peak hours.

Few employers can have the sort of impact on traffic that the port can have, but many can play a role by shifting their business hours and allowing and encouraging more flexible shifts and occasional or even regular telecommuting. State and local government agencies ought to be leaders in this effort, if only out of self-preservation: If the Legislature decides to spend more money on roads, that money is likely to come from the rest of government.