November 30, 2023

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Public Health targets medication misuse

Grey Bruce Public Health has launched its “Attacking Medication Misuse” campaign.

Starting Saturday, November 18, people can clean out their medicine cabinet and bring anything in need of proper disposal to Rexall Pharma Plus in Owen Sound. Those that do will receive two free vouchers for tickets to an Owen Sound Attack home game.

Manager of Grey Bruce Public Health’s Harm Reduction Program, Monica Blair, said it’s an effort to remind residents that the safest way to dispose of unused medications is to return them to any pharmacy at any time.

“The goal for the program is to help ensure that these medications are not taken by someone that they aren’t meant for, and to keep them out of our landfills and waterways which can be harmful to the environment and could have an impact on human and animal health,” stressed Blair.

Blair warned of rising rates of recreational misuse of prescription drugs by youth, who often obtain these drugs from family medicine cabinets and friends. She pointed to some alarming statistics in the most recent Ontario Student Drug Use and Mental Health Survey from 2021. It found one in eight students used prescription drugs without a prescription within the past year. The percentage of students who used a prescription opioid without a prescription in the past year jumped from 11 per cent in 2019 to 12.7 per cent in 2021. And about four per cent of students reported using over-the-counter cold or cough medicine in the past year “to get high.”

“Basically, trends suggest rising rates of recreational misuse of prescription drugs by youth who often obtain these drugs from family medicine cabinet,” explained Blair. “But then, in addition to abuse, there’s also the potential that adults or seniors may inadvertently take expired medication or medication that is not meant for them.”

People who participate in the campaign will be asked to fill out a form at Rexall Pharma Plus to indicate what medication they are returning. This data will be collected by Public Health for reporting purposes.

“While the ‘Attacking Medication Misuse’ campaign will run for only a limited time, we hope the message resonates in the community – that properly disposing of unused and expired medication benefits both human and environmental health and has the potential to save lives,” Blair concluded.

The awareness program is in partnership with the OHL team and the drug store at 963 Second Avenue East. It will continue until November 25, 2023, or until all free-ticket vouchers are claimed, whichever is sooner.