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Prescription Drug Abuse: States Lack Strategies to Stop the Epidemic

The Rise of Prescription Drugs, Painkillers

Prescription DrugOver the past 15 years, sales of prescription painkillers have quadrupled in the United States.[1] Not the only alarming increase, the number of fatal poisonings due to prescription painkillers has also skyrocketed.1 Today, prescription drug misuse is responsible for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.1

Something needs to be done; however, a report from Trust for America’s Health found that many states are lacking effective strategies to curb prescription drug abuse.1 In fact, more than 25 states scored a six or less out of 10 on the advocacy organization’s scale, one that assesses the ways states are trying to combat prescription drug abuse.1 Only New Mexico and Vermont received a score of 10 out of 10, setting a strong example for others.1

Even though the number of Americans who abuse prescription drugs was 6.1 million in 2011, one million less than the previous year, the number of drug overdoses and deaths linked to these drugs has doubled in 29 states since 1999.1 In other states, that number tripled, even quadrupled.1

State Strategies to Monitor Prescription Drugs

Trust for America’s Health evaluated each state on several strategies that have shown effective in fighting against prescription drug abuse.1 One strategy is using prescription drug monitoring programs, which help pharmacists and doctors identify patients who are doctor-shopping, or visiting various doctors to fill more prescriptions.1 Forty-nine out of the 50 states had a program in place; however, only 16 required their use.1

Next, the organization looked at the “Rescue Drug” laws in each state.1 “Rescue Drug” refers to the prescription drug naloxone, a drug that is effective in counteracting an overdose.1 Many caretakers wish to have a prescription on hand in the event of an overdose, to rescue the person they are caring for.1 Seventeen states, as well as Washington D.C., allow for the general public to access and administer this drug.1

Trust for America’s Health also evaluated the laws that require special education for medical providers who prescribe prescription painkillers.1 Fewer than 25 of the states enacted laws that addressed this issue.1 Therefore, many providers do not receive adequate training regarding how some medicine can be misused and patients can become dependent on them.1 Many do not provide effective patient education when prescribing the drugs.1

Trust for America’s Health believes that the states can do a better job curbing prescription drug abuse with stricter laws.1 As drug overdose deaths now exceed motor-vehicle related deaths in 29 states, state governments may wish to tighten the belt.1



[1] Wilson, J. (2013, October 7). Report: States failing to curb prescription abuse . CNN.com. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/07/report-states-failing-to-curb-prescription-abuse/?hpt=he_c2

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