© Jonathan Riley
Digby RCMP Constable Jennifer Neufeld will help oversee a prescription drug drop off with pharmacist Yasmine Abdalla of Shoppers Drug Mart on Saturday, May 10.
Digby RCMP, the Senior Safety Program and Shoppers Drug Mart want you to clean out your medicine cabinet as part of your spring cleaning.
Shoppers Drug Mart in Digby is a prescription Drug Drop-Off Day on Saturday, May 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
They will be accepting expired and unused medicines and vitamins, medicine left over after a dosage change, and diabetic lancets, needles and sharps containers
Christian Croggon of Shoppers Drug Mart in Digby says they accept these items all year round but the drop off day is to raise awareness about the importance of disposing of medication safely and appropriately.
“We want to tie it in with spring cleaning because sometimes people just throw it in the medicine cabinet and think ‘I know what’s going on’ and before you know it it’s been a year,” he says.
Croggon says it can be confusing, especially if you’ve had a dosage change, to have two similar vials in the same cabinet.
“The rate of medication error increases dramatically once you’re taking three or more medications,” he says. “So it’s important to clean out those cabinets to reduce the confusion.”
Croggon also suggests people use organizers and obtain a list from the pharmacist of all the medications they are taking.
“This will help you be clear about what you’re supposed to be taking and what’s still active,” he said. “It can be helpful to review the list with your doctor regularly. The list should also include any multi-vitamins or natural health care products you’re taking.”
Croggon says proper disposal of medications also protects against abuse, recreational use, accidental poisoning and protects the environments.
Shoppers Drug Mart held a similar event on their own a few years ago, but this is the first time Digby has participated in the National Prescription Drug Drop Off day organized by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, together with Health Canada, Public Safety Canada, and Partnership for a Drug Free Canada.
In Nova Scotia, the RCMP and municipal police agencies have partnered with health authorities and community pharmacists to offer more than 20 drop off sites.
Police are particularly worried about the potential abuse of prescription drugs. Reducing access to these medications by people who are not prescribed to use them is one part of addressing this public health issue, says RCMP Sergeant Keith MacKinnon.
“If you have prescription drugs in your home that are expired or no longer required then you also have the responsibility to get rid of them properly,” he says. “Prescription medications are increasingly getting into the hands of young people and people who they are not intended for and this can often lead to criminal activity.”
He says the drugs are abused to get high and eventually it can lead to an addiction and criminal behavior such as pharmacy robberies and trafficking.
“It is often the case that people have so many unused and expired prescriptions in their home that they don’t notice them missing,” he says.
Health Canada’s webpage on proper disposal of drugs says the practice of throwing out medications and personal care products, either in the garbage or by flushing them down the toilet may be hurting our health, as traces of prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs are showing up in rivers, lakes, oceans and even drinking water.
Health Canada says even these trace amounts can be dangerous over the long-term, especially for pregnant women, newborns, and children.
Health Canada is concerned that left-over medications in the environment may also contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Not to mention, these products may also harm aquatic species, such as fish, mussels, and algae.
Health Canada estimates that drug drop offs are only collecting a fraction of unused and expired pharmaceuticals.
Recommended disposal of drugs
- Always use medicine as directed by your doctor or pharmacist. When using antibiotics, use the entire prescription as directed even if you feel better.
- Do not put expired or unused pharmaceuticals in the garbage or down the toilet or sink.
- Most pharmacies have a drug take-back program that collects and disposes of the public's unused and expired drugs in an environmentally safe manner.
- At least once a year, go through your medicine cabinet and remove all prescription and non-prescription drugs that are old or that you no longer take. Take them all back to your pharmacy.
- If you don't know if a drug is still safe to use, check with your pharmacist.