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Fighting Medication Misuse and Abuse

Published on 02 February 2016

St. Louis College of Pharmacy is joining a broad coalition across the region to fight prescription medication and heroin abuse. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is leading the effort called the 360 Strategy. The plan is to involve law enforcement, health care providers, and community organizations to tackle the problem. One of the DEA’s goals is to partner with the medical community to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription opioid abuse and how it often leads to heroin use.

Amy Tiemeier, Pharm.D., BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice at the College, spoke at the official kick-off event about the importance of safe medication storage and disposal. She explained why removing opioid pain medications from a patient’s home as soon as they are no longer needed is a key step in fighting potential abuse. Tiemeier says the most responsible way to do that is through services already established in many communities in the area.

“St. Louis is fortunate to have more than 40 permanent medication disposal boxes in the region,” Tiemeier said. “These drop boxes, which are located in police stations, are free and anonymous to use, and in many cases, are available 24 hours a day.”

Locations for the drop boxes are listed at www.meddisposal.org.

Tiemeier also highlighted the role of the pharmacist in helping solve the problem of abuse and misuse.

“Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers in the community,” she said. “In that role, we’re uniquely situated to be actively involved in helping curb substance abuse.”

Pharmacists work to ensure all prescriptions are valid and would not be harmful to a patient’s health.

“We also have the obligation to educate patients about proper storage, handling, and disposal of all medications,” Tiemeier adds.

In addition to the ongoing work with the 360 Strategy, the College and DEA are long-time partners promoting the importance of the National Take-Back Initiative. Twice a year, temporary disposal sites are set up at area police stations and community centers. In the last five years, more than 115,000 pounds of medication has been collected from the metropolitan St. Louis area. The next disposal event will be on April 30, 2016.

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