The B.C. Pharmacy Association is reminding the public to dispose of medication safely so it doesn’t end up in the wrong hands or polluting the environment.

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Disposal program for medications aims to stem drug-related tragedies in B.C.

The province is expected to see a record number of drug overdoses this year and that prediction has prompted provincial health officers to declare a public health emergency.

In hopes of avoiding some of those deaths, the British Columbia Pharmacy Association is reminding West Shore and all residents of the Capital Region to dispose of their medication safely so they don’t end up in the wrong hands or polluting the environment.

Saturday marked the National Prescription Drug Drop-off Day, a Canada-wide initiative led by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. In 2015, according to the B.C. Pharmacy Association, CRD residents returned more than 11,000 kilograms of medications to local pharmacies for safe disposal. That is a more than 60 per cent increase from 2009.

Residents can continue to return unused or expired medications to community pharmacies across the region, free of charge.

“There are 49 community pharmacies in the Capital Regional District that will accept medication returns at any time,” said Geraldine Vance, CEO of the BCPhA. “Your pharmacist is the best person to help you dispose of unwanted drugs.”

The non-profit association is also reminding residents to store medication out of reach of children or in a locked cabinet. More than 8 per cent of Canadian youth in grades 6 through 12 reported using prescription and over-the-counter drugs to get high, according to the 2010-11 Youth Smoking Survey.

“In our region, proper medication disposal and pollution prevention are essential to protecting our marine environment, regardless of the level of wastewater treatment,” said Vic Derman, chair of the CRD environmental services committee. “In addition to working with industry to ensure best practices, partnering with groups like the BCPhA helps us raise awareness and educate residents on the importance of proper disposal of unused medication.”

The province-wide medication return program covers all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications including topical antibiotic and anti-fungal creams and natural health products that are orally ingested. More than 95 per cent of community pharmacies in the province participate in the program, which is free for all B.C. residents.

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