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Returning unused prescriptions to B.C. pharmacies could help prevent overdoses

New HPSA survey shows 1 in 3 Canadians do not know how to safely dispose of old, unused medications
A protester gathers containers depicting OxyContin prescription pill bottles. (AP/Patrick Semansky)

A nationally recognized nonprofit is urging Canadians to rid their cabinets of old, unwanted medications as overdose deaths climb and prescription pills pose more of a danger in the wrong hands.

Bring medications to a local pharmacy for safe disposal, said Terri Drover, director-general of Health Products Stewardship Association (HPSA).

“Access to excess drugs can contribute to tragic and accidental overdoses.”

More people in British Columbia are dying from drug poisoning than ever before. In May, the province saw 160 deaths, the second-highest monthly total ever recorded by BC Coroner’s Service.

RELATED: 160 people fatally overdosed in May in B.C. as drug toxicity keeps rising

And yet, only 34 per cent of Canadians know the proper means of disposing of unwanted medications – according to an HPSA survey of 1,615 adults in B.C., Manitoba, Ontario and Prince Edward Island from Feb. 11 to 15.

P.E.I. residents practice correct disposal techniques the most at 78 per cent saying they do so compared to 68 per cent of people in B.C.

Majority of pharmacies take back medications

“Together, we can all do our part to protect our communities and keep medications from falling into the wrong hands,” Drover said.

Close to 90 per cent of B.C. pharmacies offer take-back programs that accept natural health products, anti-bacterial creams, patches and inhalers.

When disposed of improperly, unwanted, unused or expired over-the-counter medications and natural health products can cause harm to the environment, said Drover.

READ MORE: NDP lawmaker tables bill to decriminalize drug use as overdose deaths soar

HPSA administers seven collections programs in four provinces using 5,800 community pharmacies as collection sites to divert products from landfills and waterways.

So far, the nonprofit said it has disposed of more than 3,750,000 kilograms of pharmaceutical products as well as 2,250,000 of medical sharps.

To find a participating pharmacy or for more information on what products need to be safely disposed of, visit:

READ MORE: ‘Lifeguard’ app launches as a made-in-B.C. solution to help prevent overdose deaths

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