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Residents encouraged to clean out their medicine cabinets

By Mark Squibb/March 24, 2022

In the midst of the snow and ice, it does not seem like spring is upon us, but in a couple of weeks it may warm enough for folks to get around to their spring cleaning.

An important part of that annual ritual ought to be cleaning out your medicine cabinet, said Conception Bay South Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacy owner Keith Bailey.

On Monday, Bailey, was joined by Sgt. Geoff Green, the RCMP’s Drugs and Organized Crime Awareness Coordinator, and Sgt. Ron Simms, Supervisor with RNC Community Services, to announce the return of the public pill drop off event, which was held the following day.

Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies across the province hosted the public pill drop, inviting folks to bring in their old and outdated medications for disposal.

If you missed this week’s event, no need to worry: Bailey says you can bring in your old meds any time.

“People can bring medication back to their pharmacies,” said Bailey. “Most pharmacies have proper disposal methods. So, if you have expired medication, or a loved one passes away, or some other thing happens in your life and you’re stuck with medications, whether that’s over the counter or prescription drugs, you can bring those back to the pharmacy.”

And if you’re tempted to just throw your old meds in the trash bin rather than take a trip to the pharmacy, Bailey says there are plenty of reasons to reconsider.

“There are environmental protection issues with medication going into our water if they go in the garbage,” said Bailey. “There’s also the risk of diversion. If people know you’re on a medication, there’s a risk they could go through your garbage. We’ve also seen privacy issues, where their names and medications, or some other personal identifiers, get exposed.”

He said some folks hold onto their prescriptions and medications even past expiration dates, which can make the medication unsafe to use.

“I’ve seen patients bring back expired cough and cold products that are four and five years old, and they ask, ‘Can I still use it?’” said Bailey. “Obviously, if there are also kids around the house, there’s a risk of them getting hold of those medications. So, it’s a safety issue in your home and a safety issue in your community.”

Bailey said given the demand COVID has created, pharmacies are seeing a shortage in cough and cold products and pain relievers. That shortage may make it more tempting to hold onto old products.

Bailey said maybe around 80 percent of medications returned are cough and cold products. Prescription drugs, such as powerful narcotics, are also returned.

From a policing perspective, Green said the biggest concern is folk, particularly young people, using and abusing medication that is not their own.

“We are not different than any other province in Canada,” said Green. “We’ve had young people, and older people even, overdose on a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them. So, we would like to get those items out of the medicine cabinet and to the drug stores for safe disposal.”

Problems with youth and drugs may have been amplified by the pandemic.

“It’s always been a problem, but since COVID, we have seen across Canada an increase in overdose deaths, and it seems like it’s not been reported because COVID has taken the mainstream media’s attention,” said Green.

Bailey added that social media can add to the problem.

“We’ve seen things like Tik Tok challenges where kids drink Benadryl, for example, which is an allergy medication, but in high amounts can cause issues,” said Bailey.

He said parents should educate them selves about symptoms and the causes of drug use, and noted there are many police resources available.

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