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The Role Pharmacies Play in Addiction Recovery

The Frontline in the Fight Against Addiction

The pharmacy is often a stop on our weekend “to do” list. We need to pick up some allergy medicine, a bag of milk, some shampoo and maybe a chocolate bar on our way through the checkout. Sometimes, though, we make our way over to the local pharmacy because we’ve been prescribed some heavy duty medicine because we’re sick or hurt ourselves in some way, and we all know that doctors don’t always have the time to sit with us and explain absolutely everything about our treatment. Side effects? I mean, is it going to turn us green? How long do I take it? Not too long I hope. Hey, am I even going to be able to swallow that giant horse pill you’re giving me? Pharmacists often have the answers to our questions and concerns, and can be immensely helpful in informing us of the proper way to take medicine, store it, and the safe use and disposal of whatever drug it might be. Pharmacists and their technicians are unbelievably knowledgeable and (in my experience anyway) often take the time to speak with us and provide not only useful information, but reassurance and advice on what to do and how to do it.

Pharmacies, technicians and pharmacists play another very crucial role that many of us will never, thankfully, experience. Much like the many services offered to young women, pharmacies and their staff can make a huge difference in the life of addicts. I know that pharmacies in my area have a whole lot of literature, information and advice to give for addicts seeking to make a change in their circumstances. I will admit to even overhearing a conversation between someone convinced of their addiction, and a pharmacist offering them a very reasonable sounding course of action that would help them. That’s when I noticed the various pamphlets from drug rehab facilities, and a variety of other information on not only prescription drug abuse but illicit drug use and abuse as well.

What Pharmacists Can do Behind The Scenes

The folks with the most up to date and accurate records surrounding an individual’s prescription treatments, what they’ve been prescribed in the past, who prescribed it and why, and can access all this information with a few clicks of the mouse. Having access to all this information at a moment’s notice allows pharmacists to help patients, doctors and with a patient’s consent, rehab facilities, better manage someone’s recovery or plan to cease problematic substance abuse.

With all the information and patient history that pharmacists possess, it also allows them to (in certain areas of Canada) propose medical reviews of someone’s file, which can result in better treatment options with less addictive substances being proposed, or a plan a patient and doctor can agree to that allows for patients to reduce their use, and in many cases abuse of a certain medicine.

In many areas of the country, pharmacies can offer life saving medications to people overdosing or at risk of doing so, which in many cases leads to what is referred to as someone’s “rock bottom” moment. While that doesn’t have a positive ring to it, a tremendous amount of good can come about from someone experiencing their “rock bottom”. Many choose to make a change for the better and enroll in a drug detox or rehab program.

Pharmacists Who Want To Do More

Across Canada there has been a push from pharmacists to be granted more power to renew prescriptions and communicate better with physicians. Pharmacists can already do this for non narcotic medications, but are limited in what they can do when it comes to opiate pain killers and drugs similar to them. Allowing pharmacists more ability to intervene on behalf of a patient could save lives and allow patients struggling with an addiction an earlier opportunity to seek treatment.

Pharmacists and their technicians have the means to help prevent addiction, but to also offer addicts a path forward by providing information, advice and acting as a gatekeeper for their prescription history. Add their ability to dispense emergency, life saving therapies such as naloxone, pharmacies could very well be the institution in Canada that plays one of the biggest roles in early detection of drug or alcohol addiction, and be the frontline for many suffering from addiction with absolutely no idea what to do, how to do it or where to go for the help they need.

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National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers International Security for Traumatic Stress Studies The Canadian Positive Psychology Association The Association for Addiction Professionals