Prescription Drugs: We All Have a Responsibility
International Overdose Prevention Day is August 31.
It aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths. Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose. They come from all walks of life. Opioids account for the majority of drug-induced deaths in Canada. In 2017, Thunder Bay had 26 overdose deaths, almost all of which were classified as accidental. We are seeing an increase in emergency department visits as well. Opioids account for the highest rate (39.4 percent in 2016) of emergency department visits for drug overdose in Thunder Bay compared to other substances.
Prescription medication is in almost everyone’s medicine cabinet. In 2016, 16.1 percent of Thunder Bay District residents were prescribed an opioid to treat pain and 2 percent of residents were prescribed an opioid to treat a substance use disorder. In addition, there is significant non-medical use of opioids, which is the use of non-prescription opioids (e.g. heroin, carfentanil) and prescription opioids (e.g. morphine, methadone) obtained outside of a therapeutic relationship with a healthcare provider (e.g. purchased on the street).
WHAT ARE OPIOIDS?
WHAT ARE DEPRESSANTS?
Opioids is an umbrella term for natural or synthetic drugs that are derived from – or related to – the opium poppy.
Opioids attach to receptors in the central nervous system, reducing pain signals to the brain. Commonly opioids include oxycodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl, methadone and opium.
Benzodiazepines, barbiturates (medical depressants), and alcohol slow the central nervous system to produce a calming effect.
These substances are often prescribed to relieve pain, help you sleep or in the case of alcohol, used recreationally.
When taken in excessive amounts or in combination with other drugs, depressants can depress normal functions such as breathing and heart rate until they eventually stop, resulting in brain damage or death.
What you can do
- Keep drugs out of the environment and water supply
- Keep them out of the wrong hands
- Safe disposal
When you throw drugs into the garbage or flush them down the toilet, they enter the water supply. Water treatment facilities do no remove drugs once they have broken down and thus, they are returned to the environment through water and soil. Traces of prescription medication have been found in plants, marine life and can result in genetic mutations and alterations.
It’s easy for medication to get in the hands of someone who shouldn’t use them or will potentially misuse them, which is why it’s important for drugs that aren’t being used to get disposed of properly. In addition, it’s easy to confuse and mistake drugs especially if someone has poor vision or a failing memory.
We all have a responsibility when it comes to our own prescription medication, specifically with taking them as intended, disposing of them correctly and ensuring they do not get passed on to other individuals accidently. NorWest Community Health Centres in partnership with Janzens Pharmacy, Superior North EMS, Superior Points and the Thunder Bay Police, is hosting a Drug Amnesty Event on Thursday, August 30th from 10am-4pm at 525 Simpson Street. We are encouraging everyone to clean out their medicine cabinets ahead of the long weekend and the back to school season and bring their expired and unused medications to us for safe disposal. This includes
- over the counter drugs,
- prescription medication,
- cough syrups and cold/ flu medication,
- illicit drugs and drug paraphernalia,
- vitamins and mineral supplements.
If you can’t take attend the Drug Amnesty Day, you can take your expired and unused medication to any pharmacy for safe disposal. If you want to learn more about the Drug Amnesty Day, please contact Michelle Kolobutin, Health Promoter at NorWest Community Health Centres at 626-7854 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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