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Strategies for Stopping Prescription Drug Abuse

Report reviews national recommendations (October 7)

A new report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) finds that 28 states and Washington, D.C., scored 6 or less out of 10 possible indicators of promising strategies to help curb prescription drug abuse. Two states, New Mexico and Vermont, got the highest score, receiving all 10 possible indicators, while South Dakota scored the lowest with 2 out of 10.

According to the report, prescription drug abuse has become a top public health concern as the number of drug-overdose deaths — most of which are from prescription drugs — doubled in 29 states since 1999. The rates quadrupled in four of these states and tripled in 10 more of these states.

The TFAH — in consultation with public health, clinical, law enforcement, and community organization experts — reviewed a range of national recommendations and examined a set of 10 indicators of strategies being used in states to help curb the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. There are indications that some of these efforts and strategies may be having a positive effect — the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs decreased from 7.0 million in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Key recommendations from the report include:

  • Educate the public to understand the risks of prescription drug use to avoid misuse in the first place.
  • Ensure responsible prescribing practices, including increasing the education of health care providers and prescribers to better understand how medications can be misused and to identify patients in need of treatment.
  • Increase understanding about safe storage of medications and proper disposal of unused medications, such as through “take back” programs.
  • Make sure patients receive the pain medications and other treatments they need, and that patients have access to safe and effective drugs.
  • Improve, modernize, and fully fund prescription drug monitoring programs so that they are real-time, interstate, and incorporated into electronic health records to quickly identify patients in need of treatment and connect them with appropriate care, and to identify “doctor shoppers” and problem prescribers.
  • Make rescue medications more widely available by increasing access for at-risk individuals to naloxone and provide immunity for individuals and others seeking help.
  • Expand access to and the availability of effective treatment options as a key component of any strategy to combat prescription drug abuse.

Source: TFAH; October 7, 2013.

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