Accidental poisoning of children at home, starting point of drug abuse by teenagers at home and uninformed self-medication have one thing in common; in all three unused or unwanted medicines are likely culprits. The harm we cause when we fail to properly dispose off medicines we do not need is crippling.
With the advent of COVID-19, so many people have out of fear or anxiety converted their homes into mini-pharmacies where medicines that are supposed to keep us alive are stocked. Some of these medications may end up complicating our conditions as we self-diagnose and treat ourselves with what “the all-knowing “social media curb-side doctors prescribe. From “blood-thinners” including aspirin to steroids, antibiotics, assorted supplements, ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine and even tanks filled with oxygen have found their way into homes. People including children will now “consume” some of these medicines and any left-overs may be accidentally taken, given out to family and friends with “similar” symptoms etc. We all run the risk abusing drugs and unfortunately some may end up indulging in “hard drugs.”
Prior to COVID-19 many of us had turned our homes into dumping sites for medicines and we have now expanded our range of supplies. We seem to develop “unholy” attachments to drugs and end up keeping them for years even when they have long expired. I have had several unpleasant requests to identify a drug that is partly decomposed and has no name on its container. Unfortunately I have on all occasions refused to even make an attempt. My trade may teach me many things about humans and medicines but it also teaches me to be wary whenever I attempt to play Sherlock Holmes especially with medicines that are not labeled.
I took another look at “DUMP”, which is acronym for disposal of unused/unwanted medicines programme. I must admit I was extremely impressed with the usefulness of the DUMP. Many countries have tried a variety of approaches including self disposal but I think the option that is being promoted in Ghana by Edward Amporful, Cocoa Clinic and other patrons is exceptional. In my candid opinion every hospital, company and home should adopt this programme.
All you need to do is to return all unused/unwanted or even expired medicines to participating hospitals. Put these medicines in labeled receptacles or bins that are provided. You do not need to disclose your identity, just walk away because your work is done. The necessary arrangements have been made with the relevant regulatory bodies for the safe disposal of such medicines.
Sounds absolutely simple yet this has the potential to save lives; that baby who could have accidentally swallowed some of these medicines is still alive and the teen who would eventually have been hooked on stronger drugs is spared the agony.
I think bins should be in all offices so that staff could drop off their medicines and the appropriate steps taken. Market places could also have these bins available and locked and properly secured to prevent people taking the boxes away. Even homes can have a similar bin for discarding and then periodically taken to participating hospitals/clinic. Unused or unwanted medicines should not find their way into a First Aid Box, they don’t belong there.
How do we amass “riches” in unused, unwanted or even expired medicines?
• We may not adhere to the right dose of the medicine thus we end up accumulating medicines at home.
• Sometimes our healthcare provider may make changes to medicines especially when we have chronic diseases such as high blood pressure but we do not return the old ones to the hospital but instead keep them at home.
• Sometimes we react to a drug and stop taking it, leaving the excess at home. I am not sure why we keep these at home when we are aware we are no longer going to use them.
• …and now we stock medicines for fear that we may not have access to some when we have COVID-19. Our excuse is that many people are hoarding social-media proposed life-saving medication. After all we are all still learning.
In support of “DUMP”
• A frequent cause of accidental poisoning of children at home is having unused/unwanted or expired medicines within their reach. I have seen children rushed to the emergency room for this reason. Some were lucky to live while others had their exciting life cut short. Start DUMP today and help save lives. Even adults sometimes end up with complications because they assumed a drug was used for something completely different.
• People tend to play doctor or pharmacist at home because they pass on unused medicines to family and friends. This is often the starting point of uninformed self-medication. Many people are unaware that doses and types of medicines needed do not depend only on having an illness that appears similar to what another person on a particular medicine was given.
• When unused or unwanted medicines are improperly disposed off, they may eventually end up polluting water bodies etc. Start DUMP and make a statement on protecting our water bodies.
• Drug resistance is often a consequence of abuse of medicines such as antibiotics and anti-malarias. Kofi starts medicine required to be taken for one week and feels better after three days so he stops. A few days or weeks later Awo appears to have a similar illness so Kofi gives her the medicines left for four days. The process of developing drug resistance has just been set off.
• Keeping expired medicines at home may lead to unsuspecting people taking them and they may end up with additional problems.
• Improper storage of medicines may affect its potency. A typical example is keeping medicine that needs to be refrigerated in a hot room instead. Return these medicines.
We could jeopardize our health or that of others just because we are keeping unused or unwanted medicines. STOP. THINK. JOIN DUMP TODAY! You will be saving lives.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/ St Andrews Clinic/Mobissel
Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week –“24th March is WORLD TUBERCULOSIS DAY and the theme this year is “The Clock is Ticking.” This is a reminder to us all that COVID-19 has taken us off our track to fight many diseases including Tuberculosis. We need to get back on track and focus on our goals and timeline.”
• Edward Amporful, Cocoa Clinic.