The goals are to educate the public on why it’s important to safely dispose unused medications and show options on how to do that.
In an ongoing effort to help the local community confront opioid addiction, the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo will receive funding for the next year to hold educational events and offer simple alternatives to dispose of unused medications. Unused medications in households and at patient care facilities expose residents to potential harm due to mistaken ingestion and increase the potential for theft and assault.
The Opioid and Medication Education and Disposal project is designed to fit local communities on Hawai‘i Island, Kaua‘i, Maui and O‘ahu. The goals are to educate the public on why it’s important to safely dispose unused medications and show options on how to do that. Student pharmacists from the college will attend health fairs, and visit senior centers and government-funded senior day care centers throughout the four counties to distribute educational materials and teach seniors proper disposal of medications.
“At our 2018 fall health fair in Hilo, we collected 34 pounds of medication with the Hawai‘i State Narcotics Enforcement Division in their take-back program, and this initiative will give us more opportunities to offer that option to Hawai‘i residents,” says Carolyn Ma, dean of the college and principal investigator on the grant, which was awarded through a competitive grant process. The program is funded through a $25,000 grant by the AmerisourceBergen Foundation, the not-for-profit charitable giving arm of AmerisourceBergen, and through the Foundation’s Opioid Resource Grant Program that supports nonprofits fight against opioid misuse.
Ma says many people don’t realize that unused drugs in their medicine cabinet, especially those with addictive qualities, can lead to accidental overdoses or intentional misuse by anyone with access. “How to dispose of unused medications in a responsible manner to our ʻāina in a safe way has become a common question. This funding will help us expand our ability to educate our community and highlight our expertise.”
On an annual basis nationally, more than 71,000 children under the age of 19 are admitted to emergency rooms for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over the counter drugs. The problem can add to drug abuse in young adults aged 18–25 (5.9 percent) while 3 percent of teens (12–17 years) have the second highest rate. So called “pharm parties,” social gatherings where prescription drugs are consumed with alcohol, have gained popularity in recent years among both age groups.