Pharmacist Involvement in Drug Abuse Awareness Education

MAY 12, 2017
Pharmacists can play an important role in educating parents and teens about the dangers of drug abuse. It is crucial for parents and teens to have open lines of communication to prevent this dangerous epidemic. It is alarming that 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.1 In fact, from 2000-2015, over half a million individuals died from drug overdoses in the United States.1

Recently, I had the great opportunity to educate parents and teens living in my community in South Florida about the drug abuse epidemic that is plaguing the nation. According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, about 3,900 individuals died in Florida in 2015 due to drug overdoses involving heroin, oxycodone, and fentanyl.2 The audience had the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of prescription, illegal, and over-the-counter substances that are most commonly involved with abuse. Additionally, the importance of appropriate storage and disposal of controlled substances was emphasized to prevent prescription drug abuse. 

The event was publicized through an e-mail blast and posting on the community Facebook page. Twelve parents and teens attended the program, and it served as a stepping stone to future drug abuse awareness events for the community. Teens also had the opportunity to sign a pledge regarding understanding the dangers of drug abuse and the importance of being drug free. Additionally, teens were encouraged to educate their peers and raise awareness about the dangers of drug abuse.

Audience members received the following presentation handout:

What are the facts about drug overdose deaths?
  • More people die from prescription narcotic overdoses (such as Vicodin and oxycodone) than from heroin and cocaine combined3
  • How can prescription drugs be harmful?
How do inhalants affect the brain?
  • They depress the central nervous system
  • Inhalants damage the protective sheath around certain nerve fibers in the brain
Why are bath salts dangerous?
  • They can cause serious problems including hallucinations, kidney failure, high blood pressure, paranoia, and death
  • Common names include Cloud 9, Flakka, Lightening
  • They cause dangerous side effects similar to cocaine, methamphetamines, and MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)
What are the dangers of abusing cough and cold medicines?
  • Loss of coordination, numbness, high blood pressure, fast heart rate, and brain damage
  • Dextromethorphan is a common cough medication ingredient that is abused
What is Spice?
  • Commonly known as K2 and has caused an increased number of deaths nationwide3
  • Mixture of herbs and manmade chemicals and is also known as synthetic marijuana
  • Side effects include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, vomiting, anxiety, confusion, violent behavior, suicidal thoughts, heart attack, and death
What are the dangers of abusing MDMA (Ecstasy or Molly)?
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, chills, hyperthermia (increased body temperature), seizures, and death
  • Much of Ecstasy may also contain other harmful and deadly drugs such as bath salts3
I concluded the presentation with a line from the Robert Frost poem “The Road Not Taken” to emphasize the importance of saying no to drugs and standing up to peer pressure.  “Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Please feel free to use this presentation to educate families in your community.  Pharmacists can truly make a difference through drug abuse awareness education.
 
References
  1. Understanding the epidemic.  CDC website.  https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/. Accessed May 10, 2017.
  2. Drugs identified in deceased persons by Florida medical examiners.  Florida Department of Law Enforcement website.  https://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cms/MEC/Publications-and-Forms/Documents/Drugs-in-Deceased-Persons/2015-Annual-Drug-Report.aspx.  Accessed May 11, 2017.
  3. Drug facts. NIDA website.  https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts.  Accessed May 11, 2017.


Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh
Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh, received her PharmD degree from Nova Southeastern University (NSU) College of Pharmacy in 2006 and completed a 2-year drug information residency. She served as a pharmacy professor at NSU’s College of Pharmacy for 6 years, managed the drug information center, and conducted medication therapy management reviews. Dr. Gershman has published research on prescription drug abuse, regulatory issues, and drug information in various scholarly journals. Additionally, she received the Sheriff’s Special Recognition Award for her collaboration with the Broward, Florida Sheriff’s Office to prevent prescription drug abuse through a drug disposal program. She has also presented at pharmacist and physician continuing education programs on topics that include medication errors, prescription drug abuse, and legal and regulatory issues. Dr. Gershman can be followed on Twitter @jgershman2
SHARE THIS
7