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This Saturday May 9th is National RX drug drop off day. In the past GPDOTS has supported different take back day initiatives. When this became a national initiative and  Partnership for Drug Free Canada started funding the Rx drug take back day the messaging seemed to change in a direction myself and other group members feel is misleading. Examples of media coverage include:

Breaking the cycle of addiction

Reducing the risk of addiction

Drug drop-off day aims to reduce illegal use, abuse

This initiative will help reduce the number of prescription drugs such as opioids, on our streets and in our communities.

First of all Partnership for a Drug Free Canada receives major funding from Purdue Pharma (the maker of Oxycontin , Dilaudid, and other opioids). Purdue Pharma was criminally convicted in the US, admitting they misled regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused. Since PDFC started sponsoring the National take back day we noticed the statistics and messaging used portrays Rx drug abuse as a problem that effects mostly teenagers and is perpetuated by parents medicine cabinets. This is not accurate but takes accountability away from pharma, doctors, and government regulators. In December 2013 , N.S. Medical Examiner Matthew Bowes indicated there has been 437 RX drug overdoses between 2007 and 2012 in the province of Nova Scotia. Dr. Bowes elaborated by saying there was a cluster of deaths in the 20’s age group but a much larger peak in the 40’s age group. RX drug overdoses have approximately doubled in N.S. over the past 12-15 years. These statistics make it clear that this is not a “teenage party” issue being fueled by ocassionaly raiding parents medicine cabinets.

The 70% of Canadian students who take Rx drugs get them from home statistic has been misrepresented. That statistic is from a small study isolated in Ontario, not nation wide. Students indicated they had obtained the medication from someone in the home. That could be a sibling, grandparent, aunt, uncle and doesn’t necessarily mean the drug came from the home or medicine cabinet. That same study also indicates 40% of students in grades 11-12 have been approached by a drug trafficker to purchase drugs.

We have noticed some media coverage of Rx drug take back day has indicated this will prevent diversion, trafficking and addiction. These statments are quite misleading. It may prevent a very small amount of diversion but it will not have an impact on the illicit street market or addiction like it has been advertised. It will not prevent people from being exposed through a doctors prescription pad. The people who use prescription drug drop off day are not the people who are now dependent on their prescriptions and need help. How many drug traffickers or addicts will be dropping off their medications this year (illicit or prescribed)? This is an event that promotes public safety and prevents accidental poisonings but the prevention of trafficking and addiction, not so much.

We also need to ask ourselves why we are making this a one day event? Why give people the impression they should wait for Rx drug drop off day to return medication? Wouldn’t it be more effective to have a public awareness campaign to encourage people to drop off their unused medication to a pharmacy immediately? If that occurred there wouldn’t be the positive PR and media coverage for government agencies that Rx drug drop off day generates.

One last thing, why do people have so much unused medication? Why every year, do drug drop off days incinerate buckets and buckets full of unused medication? Does this not send off alarm bells that we have an issue of over prescribing? Controlling prescribing is the true prevention but I never hear this mentioned on Rx drug drop off day.

Rx drug drop off day collaborates with many volunteers who have great intentions. It also creates conversation and gets the public involved. This year please take unused medications to Rx drug drop off day to be disposed of safely. I also encourage you to mention the concerns GPDOTS has outlined above and ask questions to the representatives at your Rx drug drop off locations. This is a positive program but seems to take attention away from critical areas that need to be addressed.

Do not let Rx drug drop off day mislead you.

 

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On June 24, 2014, my youngest son, Kody Cook, died from an accidental overdose of methadone and clonazepam. Kody was just 20 years old.

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Kody left behind family and many friends. Our lives have been shattered by this loss. Kody had an unforgettable smile and a great sense of humor. He was a loving, kind, honest, loyal, hard working, respectful young man. We miss him dearly.

Kody allegedly received these prescription drugs from a coworker. It was the first time he had taken methadone. It was a fatal choice.

Kody was a good person that made a bad decision and it cost him his life. My reason for sharing Kody’s story is to create awareness, bring changes, and promote accountability.

Sincerely,

Wendy Golden

In March 2011 I lost my younger brother Josh to an accidental overdose of hydromorphone and alcohol. I started raising awareness regarding the prescription drug epidemic, more specifically opioids in my local community. This was the birth of Get Prescription Drugs off the Street (GPDOTS) and began my mission to bring awareness, education, and accountability to the issue. Over the years many committed community members and professionals have joined the GPDOTS team helping create meaningful change.

Since starting my advocacy I repeatedly hear over and over again: “What about personal responsibility?” or “Nobody forced him to take those drugs”. I am the first to admit that Josh was responsible for the choice he made to consume hydromorphone that night. Josh paid the ultimate price, he lost his life. I don’t know how much more personal responsibility he could have, what more can he do at this point? As Josh’s family we decided to take some personal responsibility and create awareness regarding his death in hopes the public would be educated how dangerous opioids are. We wanted to turn a tragic and horrific event in our lives into something that could create positive change in hopes of saving another life. Many members of GPDOTS have joined the team under similar circumstances and get similar comments about overdose victims or addicts “personal responsibility”.

A large portion of society has no problem pointing out the personal responsibility of a drug user or that persons family but why does personal responsibility stop there? If everyone involved was accountable for their actions many tragic circumstances could be prevented, not to mention resources in the health and justice system saved.

What about the personal responsibility of big pharma? Many opioid manufacturers minimized the risks of these drugs while exaggerating the benefits. This misleading information led to large increases in prescribing for medical conditions opioids were not traditionally prescribed, conditions which opioids were not an appropriate treatment. The high rates of irresponsible prescribing also led to diversion and prescription opioids now flood the illicit street market.

What about the personal responsibility of enforcement? They have a duty to investigate overdose deaths to the fullest extent possible. They have a duty to follow protocol and enforce laws currently in place. Moral judgments of someones drug use should not determine whether these cases are worth investigating or whether traffickers should be charged. Yes, nobody forced my brother to take the medication offered to him, on the other hand nobody forced the drug dealer to traffic those drugs for financial gain. Personal responsibility goes both ways!

Shouldn’t government hold personal responsibility? Should we not have accessible addiction services or effective prescription monitoring programs? Shouldn’t the government have a personal responsibility to ensure doctors are being educated in a manner that is not influenced by big pharma?

Doctors, they are the gatekeepers to these medications.  Doctors should be prescribing based on evidence and research, not pharmaceutical marketing. Doctors should have a personal responsibility to educate their patients on the risks of opioids and the potential for addiction and overdose.

There are many other people whose personal responsibility has a direct influence on the epidemic of prescription drug use. These were just a few examples.

GPDOTS is focused on creating education, awareness, and accountability in relation to the prescription drug use epidemic. If the public, professionals, and politicians were accountable and exercised their personal responsibility we could reduce the impact these drugs are having on our communities. Only focusing on the victims personal responsibility creates tunnel vision, making it harder to see the big picture which is prevention.

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Image  —  Posted: February 10, 2015 in Articles, Events
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Note: Trine Lise Good has requested a review of her complaint findings.