Drugs Education from Returning Pharmacists
Monday, 13 November 2017
Former pupils Alex Quayle, who left Bolton School in 2009, and Thorrun Govind, who finished in 2010, returned as practising Pharmacists to deliver a practical and insightful lecture on drugs to the whole of Boys’ Division Year 12. Alex as a Practice Based Medicines Optimisation Pharmacist at NHS Manchester CCG and Thorrun as Community Pharmacist for Sykes Chemist Ltd in Bolton, were well equipped to deliver clarity and reason to this complex subject. Thorrun is also resident Pharmacist on BBC Radio Lancashire, where each month she has a one hour programme which allows her to better inform the public of a pharmacist’s skills and to discuss patients’ minor ailments.
The duo spoke in turns about what their day to day duties involve and about the perils of drug taking. Thorrun explained that it is part of her job to dispense clean needles to the general public, who may well be using them for heroin use, as it is cheaper to give away needles that cost tens of pence to manufacture rather than spend tens of thousands of pounds on HIV or Hepatitis treatment. Such exchanges provide an opportunity for a Pharmacist to talk to drug users, the NHS emphasis being on safe-use; the audience were also told that at music festivals it is possible to have your drugs tested if you are in doubt about their provenance.
The Y12 boys were educated on how a “new” drug on the market will have 10-15 years of research behind it and in all likelihood will have cost billions of pounds to produce. The example of Calpol was cited, where the instructions on the package have been informed by 100 years of research and trial and error: in contrast, cocaine from Colombia, the world’s biggest producer of the drug, will sell for tens of pounds for several kilos and has no instructions on usage. A wide range of substances are commonly found to have been added to the coca plant, including cement, gasoline and paint!
Thorrun spoke of how she knew of three break-ins at local chemists in the last few months as thieves try and get their hands on controlled drugs such as morphine and methadone, which are valued on the street. Alex told how the case of Harold Shipman killing well over 200 patients with controlled drugs had led to much tighter recording being required by pharmacists of drugs entering and leaving the premises.
Boys were advised on best procedure for taking prescribed medicines abroad and told, if in doubt, to seek medical guidance. A worst case scenario was exemplified by the recent case of a Hull woman taking tramadol to Egypt where she has been arrested for drug trafficking.
The drug Spice was discussed in detail and, because it is relatively cheap, the problems it is causing on the streets of Manchester. The drug offers quick money for those dealing on the streets and then ‘zombifies’ takers, who can often be seen in Piccadilly Gardens.
The discussion then moved on to the number one problem drug, alcohol and there was speculation, because of its devastating effects, whether this would be made legal if it had just been invented now. Safe levels for men and women are now regarded as 14 units per week and these to be spread out over the 7 days. The boys were told that they need to think carefully about any drug misuse and how it will affect those who have to deal with your actions. Long-term alcohol abuse, the audience was told, damages your liver and kidneys, causing jaundice and a yellowing of the skin. When your liver can no longer process liquids, water gathers around the stomach before working its way up to your brain and causing encephalopathy and madness! Boys were warned that binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning and of course there are legal implications for anyone under 18. Alex recalled how a friend of his brother, as a student, had fallen ill after being sold pure ethanol (80% alcohol) on the streets; this is an ongoing problem for students who are attracted by the promise of cheap drink.
Steroid abuse was also discussed with the long-term effects being possible heart attack, kidney problems, a build-up of oestrogen levels and smaller testes, as well as reducing bone density.
Boys were warned to keep an eye out for their friends if they knew them to be on drugs and for a wide range of symptoms including being drowsy, angry, emotional or erratic. In an emergency they should call 999 and put the ill person in the recovering position. ‘Talk to Frank’ was flagged as online assistance as well as counselling services, especially at university and via a GP.
An interactive questions and answers session dealt with the legalisation of cannabis, the dangers of shisha smoking, synthetic drugs and e-cigarettes.
After leaving Bolton School, Thorrun graduated in Pharmacy from King’s College London and Alex gained a Master of Pharmacy at University College London. Both are intent on furthering their careers. Alex is currently studying for an MSc in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Thorrun has just started a Law conversion course.
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