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Public Pill Drop

Safely dispose of expired medications on March 11

By Heidi Wicks

Members of the public will have the opportunity to safely dispose of their expired and unused medications at the School of Pharmacy’s upcoming annual Public Pill Drop.

The event, taking place this Sunday, March 11, is part of Pharmacist Awareness Month (PAM) running throughout the month of March.

Pharmacy students at a previous Public Pill Drop event.
Photo: Submitted

“It’s important to safely dispose of medications for a number of reasons,” said Rachel Ward, Class of 2018, Memorial’s Canadian Association of Pharmacy Students and Interns senior representative and communications lead on the PAM organizing committee.

Students in the school outreach committee, a sub-committee of the PAM committee, have been giving presentations to junior high and high school students throughout March, warning them of the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

The goal is to make students aware that dependence on opioids such as codeine, morphine, fentanyl or oxycodone that are sold on the street develops rapidly.

“Opioids are powerful pain relievers for patients with acute or chronic pain,” said Ms. Ward, adding that ensuring opioids are locked away is always a good idea for those who have been prescribed them.

“Users become trapped in a situation where they pay as much as $80 on the street for a single tablet, just to get out of bed in the morning. Personal relationships and healthy lifestyles deteriorate.”

Two grains of salt

Cst. Chad Rogers of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary delivers drug awareness presentations at high schools to both students and parents, as well as to community groups who may come into contact with drugs or persons under the influence of drugs.

“People don’t realize [fentanyl] is being mixed into the drug of their choice until it’s too late.” — Cst. Chad Rogers

He says that fentanyl is a serious issue in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Drug use is a problem here in Newfoundland and Labrador and people should know what effect these substances have. Fentanyl is currently being mixed with more common drugs. The scary thing is, people don’t realize this drug is being mixed into the drug of their choice until it’s too late,” he said.

“Two milligrams of fentanyl, equivalent to two grains of salt, can actually kill the average adult, even more so if the person isn’t used to the effects of an opioid.”

Protecting youth

Dr. Lisa Bishop, interim dean, School of Pharmacy, is pleased that naloxone kits are are available in the community to prevent opioid overdoses. She says an antidote to opioid overdose is something most people should have in their homes, especially for those taking opioids or those who may be accidentally exposed.

Dr. Lisa Bishop is interviewed by a member of the media during a previous Pharmacist Awareness Month event.
Photo: Submitted

“Many things can affect the way a body responds to opioids,” she said. “People don’t understand that a dose a tiny grandmother has been taking regularly could kill her 200-pound grandson. While it’s imperative that people are educated about the severe and possibly fatal dangers of taking these drugs, it’s also imperative that people know that an antidote is available.”

Naloxone kits are currently available throughout the province and can be ordered from any community pharmacy.

The Public Pill Drop takes place on Sunday, March 11, from 10-2 p.m. at the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Headquarters at 1 Fort Townshend.

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