Reducing Preventable Overdoses and Dangerous Drug Interactions

London Drugs launches campaign to prevent drug overdoses in seniors

Every year in British Columbia, the Drug and Poison Information Centre receives 26,000 calls about poisoning, including almost 4,000 drug poisoning cases that require hospitalization, and approximately 500 of which are fatal. A quarter of these serious cases occur among adults aged 55 and over.

Many adults over the age of 55, especially those with chronic health conditions, have multiple prescriptions. Each new drug, vitamin, or over-the-counter product that’s added to the mix increases the risk of adverse side effects and medication interactions.

Taking multiple medications on time and not taking duplicate doses by mistake is an ongoing issue for this age group and a contributing factor to the high number of serious poisoning cases.

Throughout the month of April, Preventable, London Drugs, and Fraser Health Hospital Foundations are partnering to raise awareness about the importance of medication adherence to reduce preventable overdoses and dangerous side effects when some medications are mixed – including over-the-counter drugs.

London Drugs medication tracking cardAs part of the campaign, patients can download or pick up a free card at participating London Drugs locations, which they can fill in with their current medications and anything else they are taking, including vitamins, minerals, and herbal products, and have it reviewed by a pharmacist.

Medication reviews and pharmacist consultations are safeguards designed to make sure that patients take all medications safely. They also help patients to understand the purpose and potential downsides of medications and to avoid serious drug side-effects.

“If you are unclear about how to take your prescription or over-the-counter medications or how supplements might interact with each other, don’t assume everything will be okay — ask your pharmacist or doctor,” says Dr. Ian Pike, spokesperson for Preventable. “Aging is a fact of life, but poisoning from medication use is not. Having an awareness of your medications and how certain drugs can interact with each other can prevent poisoning, even death.”

A recent poll conducted by Insights West on behalf of London Drugs found that one third (34%) of Canadians aged 55 or older are not taking their prescription medications properly. This includes one in five who admit that they make adjustments to prescription dosage, size, or frequency without consulting a healthcare professional. The same number (18%) say that they have trouble remembering when or if they have taken a medication.

Participating London Drugs Locations

Westminster Centre, New Westminster

Coquitlam Centre, Coquitlam

West Oaks Mall, Abbotsford

Scott 72 Mall, Delta

Langley store, Langley

Trenant Park Mall, Ladner

Cottonwood Mall, Chilliwack

Peninsula Village Mall, White Rock

Valley Fair Mall, Maple Ridge

Mission store, Mission

Morgan Crossing, Surrey

High Street Mall, Abbotsford

Dr Art Hister – Don’t Do Drugs and Drive

A couple of disturbing studies from the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse have determined that among drivers, drug use is quickly approaching (and may even have surpassed) alcohol as a major danger.

In one study from BC, random testing revealed that alcohol was found among 8 % of drivers, but drugs were detected in 10 % of drivers.

In a 2nd study that examined fatalities among drivers, alcohol played a role in 38 % of such deaths, while at least one kind of drug was detected in 33 % of motor vehicle drivers who died between 2000 and 2006 (I would guess that that rate is probably higher in 2010 since the use of all drugs, not just recreational drugs, has gone up quite substantially in the last decade).

A few things should be glaringly obvious from these reports.

First, lest we forget, despite the glaring headlines about drug use in drivers, these studies confirm that alcohol use is still a huge, huge problem for drivers and at least as dangerous as drugs.

That said, for all those who argue that marijuana use has no substantial health consequences, well, yes, it can and too often, it does: marijuana use poses a big risk not only to the marijuana user who smokes and then drives, but it also poses a huge risk to the other drivers and pedestrians and cyclists that user might encounter when he’s high and his reflexes and awareness are not what they should be.

Third, and equally important, lots of prescription and some over-the-counter drugs can also affect neurological and brain functioning so if you’re taking such medications, it would be best to avoid driving until you knew precisely what effect those drugs have on your reflexes and awareness.