Pills can kill

Annapolis Valley Register - - OPINION -

At a re­cent safe pill drop event in St. John’s, the in­terim dean of Memo­rial Univer­sity’s school of phar­macy told a chill­ing story that drove home the mes­sage of why it’s so im­por­tant to dis­pose of med­i­ca­tions prop­erly.

Lisa Bishop re­counted a real-life episode of a man who hurt his shoul­der and de­cided to use a pain patch that was among his re­cently de­ceased mother’s med­i­ca­tions.

The patch was fen­tanyl. The man put it on, went to bed and never woke up.

It’s a strong re­minder to any­one who has med­i­ca­tions ly­ing around the house about the dan­gers they can pose.

And not just to un­wit­ting fam­ily mem­bers tak­ing some­thing to numb pain from an in­jury, or tod­dlers mis­tak­ing them for harm­less stick­ers or candy.

Ac­cord­ing to Drug Free Kids Canada, of the 51 per cent of house­holds that have pre­scrip­tion drugs that can be abused, only 11 per cent keep them in a safe place, and out of the hands of cu­ri­ous chil­dren or ex­per­i­ment­ing teens. And teens are ex­per­i­ment­ing.

A 2014 ar­ti­cle in the Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Jour­nal, “Un­used pre­scrip­tion drugs should not be treated like left­overs” paints a stark pic­ture of what can hap­pen when med­i­ca­tions are left within easy reach.

“Un­used pre­scrip­tion drugs are some­times brought to ‘pill par­ties’ (also called ‘pharm’ or ‘Skit­tles’ par­ties), where ado­les­cents ex­per­i­ment with pills they se­lect from the pool of med­i­ca­tions brought by par­ty­go­ers. With opi­oids in par­tic­u­lar, some prod­ucts con­tain enough ac­tive in­gre­di­ent in a sin­gle tablet to cause death in a naive pa­tient, es­pe­cially if mixed with other seda­tives or al­co­hol.”

Opi­oids are among the med­i­ca­tions pos­ing the great­est con­cern, since they are pow­er­ful, pow­er­fully ad­dic­tive and widely pre­scribed.

In Canada, while the quan­tity of opi­oids pre­scribed de­clined by 4.6 per cent from 2012-1016, the num­ber of opi­oid pre­scrip­tions handed out ac­tu­ally in­creased by 8.9 per cent.

And while some prov­inces are mak­ing strides in de­creas­ing opi­oid use, par­tic­u­larly Bri­tish Columbia and Nova Sco­tia, other prov­inces have seen less suc­cess.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cana­dian In­sti­tute for Health In­for­ma­tion, Al­ber­tans and New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans had the high­est av­er­age daily doses of opi­oid from 2012-2016, ex­ceed­ing the na­tional av­er­age of 6,110 per 1,000 peo­ple,

There are many good rea­sons to make sure all un­used med­i­ca­tions — and not just opi­oids — are kept out of the hands of fam­ily mem­bers, as well as out of land­fills, oceans and wa­ter sup­plies, where they can be in­gested by an­i­mals and fish. That goes for over-the-counter reme­dies and nat­u­ral health prod­ucts, as well.

Most phar­ma­cies will ac­cept your un­wanted med­i­ca­tions and safely dis­pose of them for you.

And un­til you get rid of them? You might just want to keep them un­der lock and key.

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