Nfld. & Labrador

This drugstore is a lifeline for people struggling with addictions. Now, it's closing

Emily Corcoran says the Lawtons Drugs on Campbell Avenue in St. John's is 'a safe place' and she's rallying to keep it open.

Emily Corcoran says the Lawtons Drugs on Campbell Avenue is 'a safe place'

Emily Corcoran and her fiancé, Mikhail Pasinik, have been coming to this Lawtons Drugs for years. Corcoran says it's a judgment-free zone for people struggling with drug addiction. (Bailey White/CBC)

The Lawtons Drugs on Campbell Avenue is a small store. There are no sprawling aisles or makeup counters, no impulse buys or gifts. Just the staples. Nothing fancy. 

There's a Pharmachoice next door and half a dozen other drugstores within walking distance, so perhaps it's not surprising the store, in central St. John's, is closing at the end of the month.

But to Emily Corcoran, the news is devastating. 

"I've been going to this drugstore for a long time, and it's extremely important to me because it's a safe place," she said. 

Corcoran is among the Lawtons patrons who go to the pharmacy for prescriptions to help treat opioid dependence. She's on Suboxone now, but has also been prescribed methadone in the past. 

While other pharmacies in St. John's offer those drugs, Corcoran said she and many others chose this store because it's quiet and discreet, and staff are supportive.   

"I've been on methadone and Suboxone and I've felt a lot of discrimination and stigma throughout my life due to that," she said. 

"When I came to this pharmacy, I never felt any discrimination or stigma at all. Actually, I felt cared for."

The drugstore, on Campbell Avenue in St. John's, will close Nov. 28. (Bailey White/CBC)

Show of support

At other pharmacies, Corcoran said, some customers — and even staff — look down their noses at people with opioid addictions. 

"You're treated like you're not worth anything," she said. 

"In other places people think if you're a drug addict … methadone and Suboxone [are] not going to help anyway," said Corcoran's fiancé, Mikhail Pasinik.

"You're basically wasting your time."

Corcoran is trying to gather fellow pharmacy-goers to show support for the Lawtons Drugs store. She's handing out flyers and organizing a rally Saturday.

In an emailed statement, a Lawtons spokesperson confirmed the store will close Nov. 28. The spokesperson said staff are working with patients to ensure a "smooth transition" to other drug stores.

The decision wasn't made lightly, the spokesperson said, and is in keeping with the company's "regular assessment process" and the "normal course of business."

Listen to Emily Corcoran's interview on The St. John's Morning Show:

But after more than a decade going to this pharmacy, Corcoran said to her, the Campbell Avenue Lawtons is more than just a store. She knows all the staff members by name and they've helped her recover from her addiction. 

"There's been days that I've gone in there and I've been crying. And they bring me into the room and ask me what's wrong and tell me I'm going to be OK," she said. 

"These little things that people do that show you how much they care, and show you they believe in you, help you to believe in yourself."

While Lawtons is showing no signs of changing course, Corcoran's not giving up hope. She's not ready to leave this place and the people who work there. 

"I've been told I can switch pharmacies but I'm not yet. I'm in this till the end, and that's it." 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador