Laguna's anti-drug crusader

Garrett Burk wasn't about to sit idle if it meant one less person would reach for a powerful painkiller or other drug that wasn't medically necessary.

The Laguna Beach High School senior and infielder on the baseball team wants others to know that prescription drug abuse is dangerous and rampant.

Major League Baseball Charities, in cooperation with the Partnership at, an organization dedicated to preventing teen drug and alcohol abuse, noticed Burk's efforts and rewarded him earlier this month.

Burk, 18, and Steve Carter, a youth coach from Beltsville, Md., received the fourth annual Commissioner's Play Healthy Awards, which recognize coaches and athletes nationwide for their dedication to fair, drug-free play and an overall healthy lifestyle, according to a news release.

A group of parents, coaches and industry professionals selected Burk and Carter, and both men received an all-expense paid trip to New York City to accept their awards.

"Coach Carter and Garrett Burk are two outstanding winners who deserve recognition for the way they have competed and for their commitment to influence others to live healthy lives," MLB Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig said in the release.

Burk started the group Laguna Prescription Drug Awareness, which educates the public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and suggests ways to keep certain medicine in check.

The group has about 18 members, most of whom are in high school, according to Burk. The group promotes biannual prescription drug take-back days in Laguna Beach.

Burk shied away from taking the credit for the group's achievements.

When asked if he was the president of Laguna Prescription Drug Awareness, Burk replied: "I'm one of the leaders."

The Laguna Beach Police Department and City Council helped the group set up a permanent drop-off box for unneeded or expired prescription drugs earlier this year outside the front doors of the department office at 505 Forest Ave.

More than 150 pounds of prescription drugs have been dropped off in the past three months, Burk announced at last week's council meeting.

Burk got involved with the group during his sophomore year.

"I saw how many kids in south Orange County [abuse] prescription drugs," Burk said. "It's a huge problem. I had family-related issues [with prescription drugs] and decided that something needs to be done."

Prescription drug abuse is responsible for more deaths in the United States each year than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Partnership at Drugfree.Org website.

In Orange County, teen prescription drug abuse is greater than national trends, a Laguna Beach Police Department news release said.

Seventeen percent of 11th-grade students [countywide] report having used prescription painkillers for non-medical use at least once, the release said.

The availability of unused prescriptions adds to the drug abuse problem, the police news release said.

More than 70% of young people abusing prescription pain relievers get them through friends or family, somtimes by raiding the family medicine cabinet.

Burk suggests keeping stronger medicines, such as painkillers, in a locked safe.

As part of the group's outreach, Burk and colleagues educated pharmacists in Laguna Beach on dangers of prescription drug abuse, according to Laguna Beach police Det. Larry Bammer, who met Burk through the Laguna Prescription Drug Awareness group.

"They went to every pharmacy in Laguna Beach and passed out pamphlets about [prescription drug abuse]," Bammer said. "We had such a big outpouring of people at the take-back days that we started realizing we could get a permanent [drop box]."

One prescription that people often abuse is the stimulant Adderall, Burk said. Adderall treats narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to the drug information website,

Burk wants to meet with Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens to discuss placing permanent prescription drug drop-off boxes in every city in the county, he said during the council meeting.

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