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.