Students Join the Fight Against Opioid Abuse

Published on 04 January 2019

With the opioid crisis continuing to plague the nation, St. Louis College of Pharmacy is taking bold steps in research, pharmacy practice and community outreach to combat opioid abuse. As the College holds its position on the front line in the fight against the epidemic, many of its students are joining in the battle, passionately investing their time and talents to address this growing issue that is impacting the lives of so many in the St. Louis community and across the country.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH AND EDUCATION

Through Generation Rx, an educational program sponsored by the College’s APhA-ASP Chapter, members of the student organization are focused on educating the student body and the community at-large about opioid misuse and abuse and the importance of using medications safely and appropriately.

“I’ve seen what a big problem substance abuse is in our society, so I was drawn to join Generation Rx because I saw it as a way for me to help make an impact,” said P4 student and former Generation Rx chair Alexander Spillars. “As a future pharmacist, I will play a major role in educating people and identifying the signs and symptoms of overdose, so being a part of this group just made sense to me.”

In recent years, the group’s outreach efforts have included the creation of a substance abuse awareness pledge board. Students pledged not to misuse medications, and they were also able to learn more about Generation Rx and the risks of medication misuse and abuse.

Generation Rx also hosts an annual lunch and learn featuring a screening of the documentary “Chasing the Dragon,” which examines the personal experiences of several individuals suffering from opioid addiction. Following the film, attendees have the opportunity to interact with a representative of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) St. Louis Division or the St. Louis County Police Department, who answers questions related to substance misuse and abuse and discusses what they see happening in the community related to drug abuse.

Generation Rx also spearheads community outreach initiatives aimed at educating younger generations about medication safety. Each year, representatives of Generation Rx host a table at the annual Boo Fest Halloween event for St. Louis area children with Type 1 diabetes. The table features an interactive game called “Pills vs. Candy” that is designed to show kids how similar pills and candy can look and educate parents on the potential dangers of prescription medications. Generation Rx sponsors a similar booth at the Saint Louis Science Center’s annual SciFest weekend Healthy U event.

“Our Generation Rx team works hard to educate people about the potential dangers of misusing prescription medications,” said Amy Tiemeier, B.S. ’01, Pharm.D. ’02, BCPS, associate professor of pharmacy practice, director of community partnerships and associate director of experiential education, and faculty advisor for the Generation Rx program. “As student pharmacists, involvement in Generation Rx is a great experience because it provides them with a way to positively impact the community now, while also giving them the chance to learn more about the opioid epidemic and preparing them to help prevent addiction in future patients.”

SAFE MEDICATION DISPOSAL

For the past several years, students at the College have also actively been involved in door-to-door medication take back efforts in the community. This spring marked the seventh time since 2011 the College partnered with the city of St. Louis and the DEA’s St. Louis Division to help local senior residents clear out their medicine cabinets. The door-to-door collection events are held each spring in advance of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day events.

“Proper medication disposal is vital to public safety because medications that linger in homes can be susceptible to diversion, misuse or abuse,” said Tiemeier. “Leftover medications can be a concern among older adults because their medications can change before their existing supply is used. Our door-to-door take back events give us the chance to visit seniors and help them dispose of their unwanted medications safely and properly.”

Since 2011, the events have collected thousands of pounds of medications and increased community awareness about proper medication disposal.

“Getting to participate in the most recent door-to-door take back event was an eye-opening experience,” said P2 student Tea Gjoni. “Many of the residents at the community I visited had bags, and even carts, full of medications to turn in. While there is no single answer to solving the opioid crisis, the visit allowed me to see firsthand the importance and impact of providing patients with a safe place to dispose of their medications.”

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