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Public Pill Drop event keeping prescription drugs off the street

By Heidi Wicks

As part of Pharmacist Awareness Month (PAM) 2016, the School of Pharmacy’s Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns (CAPSI) team and Memorial University Pharmacy Students (MUPS) society, in partnership with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and Royal Canadian Mounted Police will host the annual Public Pill Drop, where members of the public can safely dispose of their expired medications.

The event will take place on Saturday, March 19, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at the RNC headquarters, 1 Fort Townshend.

While expired medications may lose their effectiveness, there is also a danger that if not safely disposed of, they could fall into the wrong hands.

Risk of drug abuse

Dr. Barbara Thomas, School of Pharmacy and Faculty of Medicine, and clinical pharmacist with Eastern Health, teaches substance abuse to undergraduate pharmacy students.

She says prescription drugs can be as lethal as illegal drugs if used incorrectly.

“The most common classes of prescription medications that are subject to abuse are the opioid analgesics such as oxycodone (Oxycontin, Percocet), the sedative hypnotics such as lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), and the psychostimulants such as methylphenidate (Ritalin). Each of these medications can be lethal if taken in an excessive amount or if taken by someone whose system has not been introduced to the drug in smaller doses,” she said. “They could experience a variety of adverse effects such as breathing problems or seizures, depending on the type of medication. This is especially true when taken by a person who is drug naïve. That’s the worry with medications like these being on the streets.”

Public awareness is pivotal

Pharmacy student Kyia Hynes, one of the lead event organizers, agrees that awareness is pivotal.

“Some of our students have been visiting local high schools to educate students about the dangers and risks associated with prescription drug abuse,” she said. “High school students are at a vulnerable age where they have more exposure to and knowledge about prescription medications. Therefore, it is important for us to do our part and make them aware of the risks of taking medications not prescribed for them.”

Correlation between prescription drug abuse and criminal activity

Constable Chad Rogers, RNC, is proud to work with pharmacy students on this initiative, adding that prescription drug abuse in the metro area is a growing issue.

“We have to do everything we can in this community to spread awareness and offer preventive measures,” he said.

Sgt. Geoff Green, the RCMP’s drugs and organized crime awareness co-ordinator, says there is direct correlation between prescription drug abuse and criminal activity.

“This threatens the health and well-being of those who become addicted, as well as that of our communities,” he said. “Initiatives like the Public Pill Drop reduce the number of prescription drugs that could end up on our streets.”

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