Those pain meds from an old injury, tablets from a vacation years ago and antibiotics you forgot to take could pose a serious risk to youth.
Unused prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, whether expired or for personal use, are seeing growing abuse from adolescents looking for a “safe” alternative to street drugs.
“A lot of parents leave them lying around when they shouldn’t and kids come along and take them,” said Curtis Omelchuk, Remedy’s Rx pharmacist/owner. “They think it’s safer, cleaner.”
More than seven per cent of students in Grades 7-12 in B.C. admitted to abusing prescription drugs in a Health Canada Survey. According to a 2014 article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “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.”
These medications are often taken from a medicine cabinet in their own home or from that of a friend or relative.
Along with this growing and serious problem, expired medications can be ineffective or even toxic.
In an efforts to keep drugs out to hands of youth, as well as out of the landfills and water systems, collection efforts are underway.
The Canadian Mental Health Association, Division of Family Practice, and Interior Health are combining efforts to raise awareness of this issue and to support Vernon’s Unused Medications Return Program.
Residents are encouraged to bring down their unused or expired medications on Saturday, June 16 to the Sunshine Festival where the CMHA with Nolan’s Pharmasave will have a booth set up to receive any medications that you no longer need. If you are not able to make it down, all of the Vernon pharmacies participate in a Medications Return Program all year round, so it’s easy to return expired or unused prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, or even natural health products free of charge at any time.
“So let’s clean out those medicine cabinets and search through our drawers, and place medications you no longer need in a plastic or paper bag and bring them down, or return them to any pharmacy in town,” said Ryan Godard, CMHA Vernon and district community educator.
All labels on containers should be removed or covered with black felt, and pills should be taken out of the blister packs, if possible.
“With your help, we can keep our community as well as our environment safe.”