New GAO Report and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Drug Control: Initial Review of the National Strategy and Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Programs. GAO-12-744R, July 6.
1. Federal Real Property: Improved Data and a National Strategy Needed to Better Manage Excess and Underutilized Property, by David Wise, director, physical infrastructure, before the Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings and Emergency Management, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. GAO-12-958T, August 6.
Vital Signs: Risk for Overdose from Methadone Used for Pain Relief — United States, 1999–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Vital statistics data suggest that the opioid pain reliever (OPR) methadone is involved in one third of OPR-related overdose deaths, but it accounts for only a few percent of OPR prescriptions.
CDC analyzed rates of fatal methadone overdoses and sales nationally during 1999–2010 and rates of overdose death for methadone compared with rates for other major opioids in 13 states for 2009.
Methadone overdose deaths and sales rates in the United States peaked in 2007. In 2010, methadone accounted for between 4.5% and 18.5% of the opioids distributed by state. Methadone was involved in 31.4% of OPR deaths in the 13 states. It accounted for 39.8% of single-drug OPR deaths. The overdose death rate for methadone was significantly greater than that for other OPR for multidrug and single-drug deaths.
Methadone remains a drug that contributes disproportionately to the excessive number of opioid pain reliever overdoses and associated medical and societal costs.
Implications for Public Health Practice:
Health-care providers who choose to prescribe methadone should have substantial experience with its use and follow consensus guidelines for appropriate opioid prescribing. Providers should use methadone as an analgesic only for conditions where benefit outweighs risk to patients and society. Methadone and other extended-release opioids should not be used for mild pain, acute pain, “breakthrough” pain, or on an as-needed basis. For chronic noncancer pain, methadone should not be considered a drug of first choice by prescribers or insurers.
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2011
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Problem: Priority health-risk behaviors, which are behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of morbidity and mortality among youth and adults, often are established during childhood and adolescence, extend into adulthood, and are interrelated and preventable.
Reporting Period Covered: September 2010–December 2011.
Description of the System: The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) monitors six categories of priority health-risk behaviors among youth and young adults: 1) behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence; 2) tobacco use; 3) alcohol and other drug use; 4) sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection; 5) unhealthy dietary behaviors; and 6) physical inactivity. In addition, YRBSS monitors the prevalence of obesity and asthma. YRBSS includes a national school-based Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) conducted by CDC and state and large urban school district school-based YRBSs conducted by state and local education and health agencies. This report summarizes results from the 2011 national survey, 43 state surveys, and 21 large urban school district surveys conducted among students in grades 9–12.
Results: Results from the 2011 national YRBS indicated that many high school students are engaged in priority health-risk behaviors associated with the leading causes of death among persons aged 10–24 years in the United States. During the 30 days before the survey, 32.8% of high school students nationwide had texted or e-mailed while driving, 38.7% had drunk alcohol, and 23.1% had used marijuana. During the 12 months before the survey, 32.8% of students had been in a physical fight, 20.1% had ever been bullied on school property, and 7.8% had attempted suicide. Many high school students nationwide are engaged in sexual risk behaviors associated with unintended pregnancies and STDs, including HIV infection. Nearly half (47.4%) of students had ever had sexual intercourse, 33.7% had had sexual intercourse during the 3 months before the survey (i.e., currently sexually active), and 15.3% had had sexual intercourse with four or more people during their life. Among currently sexually active students, 60.2% had used a condom during their last sexual intercourse. Results from the 2011 national YRBS also indicate many high school students are engaged in behaviors associated with the leading causes of death among adults aged ≥25 years in the United States. During the 30 days before the survey, 18.1% of high school students had smoked cigarettes and 7.7% had used smokeless tobacco. During the 7 days before the survey, 4.8% of high school students had not eaten fruit or drunk 100% fruit juices and 5.7% had not eaten vegetables. Nearly one-third (31.1%) had played video or computer games for 3 or more hours on an average school day.
Interpretation: Since 1991, the prevalence of many priority health-risk behaviors among high school students nationwide has decreased. However, many high school students continue to engage in behaviors that place them at risk for the leading causes of morbidity and mortality. Variations were observed in many health-risk behaviors by sex, race/ethnicity, and grade. The prevalence of some health-risk behaviors varied substantially among states and large urban school districts.
Public Health Action: YRBS data are used to measure progress toward achieving 20 national health objectives for Healthy People 2020 and one of the 26 leading health indicators; to assess trends in priority health-risk behaviors among high school students; and to evaluate the impact of broad school and community interventions at the national, state, and local levels. More effective school health programs and other policy and programmatic interventions are needed to reduce risk and improve health outcomes among youth.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and Associated Health Care Expenditures
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association
Context: Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a postnatal drug withdrawal syndrome primarily caused by maternal opiate use. No national estimates are available for the incidence of maternal opiate use at the time of delivery or NAS.
Objectives: To determine the national incidence of NAS and antepartum maternal opiate use and to characterize trends in national health care expenditures associated with NAS between 2000 and 2009.
Design, Setting, and Patients: A retrospective, serial, cross-sectional analysis of a nationally representative sample of newborns with NAS. The Kids’ Inpatient Database (KID) was used to identify newborns with NAS by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) code. The Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) was used to identify mothers using diagnosis related groups for vaginal and cesarean deliveries. Clinical conditions were identified using ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes. NAS and maternal opiate use were described as an annual frequency per 1000 hospital births. Missing hospital charges (<5% of cases) were estimated using multiple imputation. Trends in health care utilization outcomes over time were evaluated using variance-weighted regression. All hospital charges were adjusted for inflation to 2009 US dollars.
Main Outcome Measures: Incidence of NAS and maternal opiate use, and related hospital charges.
Results: The separate years (2000, 2003, 2006, and 2009) of national discharge data included 2920 to 9674 unweighted discharges with NAS and 987 to 4563 unweighted discharges for mothers diagnosed with antepartum opiate use, within data sets including 784 191 to 1.1 million discharges for children (KID) and 816 554 to 879 910 discharges for all ages of delivering mothers (NIS). Between 2000 and 2009, the incidence of NAS among newborns increased from 1.20 (95% CI, 1.04-1.37) to 3.39 (95% CI, 3.12-3.67) per 1000 hospital births per year (P for trend < .001). Antepartum maternal opiate use also increased from 1.19 (95% CI, 1.01-1.35) to 5.63 (95% CI, 4.40-6.71) per 1000 hospital births per year (P for trend < .001). In 2009, newborns with NAS were more likely than all other hospital births to have low birthweight (19.1%; SE, 0.5%; vs 7.0%; SE, 0.2%), have respiratory complications (30.9%; SE, 0.7%; vs 8.9%; SE, 0.1%), and be covered by Medicaid (78.1%; SE, 0.8%; vs 45.5%; SE, 0.7%; all P < .001). Mean hospital charges for discharges with NAS increased from $39 400 (95% CI, $33 400-$45 400) in 2000 to $53 400 (95% CI, $49 000-$57 700) in 2009 (P for trend < .001). By 2009, 77.6% of charges for NAS were attributed to state Medicaid programs.
Conclusion: Between 2000 and 2009, a substantial increase in the incidence of NAS and maternal opiate use in the United States was observed, as well as hospital charges related to NAS.
See: About One Baby Born Each Hour Addicted to Opiate Drugs in U.S. (Science Daily)
Prevalence and co-use of marijuana among young adult cigarette smokers: An anonymous online national survey
BackgroundThere is elevated prevalence of marijuana use among young adults who use tobacco, but little is known about the extent of co-use generated from surveys conducted online. The purpose of the present study was to examine past-month marijuana use and the co-use of marijuana and tobacco in a convenience sample of young adult smokers with national US coverage.MethodsYoung adults age 18 to 25 who had smoked at least one cigarette in the past 30 days were recruited online between 4/1/09 and 12/31/10 to participate in an online survey on tobacco use. We examined past 30 day marijuana use, frequency of marijuana use, and proportion of days co-using tobacco and marijuana by demographic characteristics and daily smoking status.ResultsOf 3512 eligible and valid survey responses, 1808 (51.5%) smokers completed the survey. More than half (53%, n = 960) of the sample reported past-month marijuana use and reported a median use of 18 out of the past 30 days (interquartile range [IR] = 4, 30). Co-use of tobacco and marijuana occurred on nearly half (median = 45.5%; IR = 13.1, 90.3) of the days on which either substance was used and was more frequent among Caucasians, respondents living in the Northeast or in rural areas, in nonstudents versus students, and in daily versus nondaily smokers. Residence in a state with legalized medical marijuana was unrelated to co-use or even the prevalence of marijuana use in this sample. Age and household income also were unrelated to co-use of tobacco and marijuana.ConclusionThese results indicate a higher prevalence of marijuana use and co-use of tobacco in young adult smokers than is reported in nationally representative surveys. Cessation treatments for young adult smokers should consider broadening intervention targets to include marijuana.
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Prescription Medication Abuse and Illegitimate Internet-Based Pharmacies
Source: Annals of Internal Medicine
Abuse of controlled prescription medications in the United States exceeds that of all illicit drugs combined except marijuana and has grown considerably in the past decade. Although available through traditional channels, controlled prescription medications can also be purchased on the Internet without a prescription. This issue has gained the attention of federal regulators, law enforcement, and the media, but physician awareness of the problem is scarce. This article describes the nature of the problem and its magnitude, discusses the challenges to federal and private efforts to combat illegitimate online pharmacies, and outlines strategies for physicians to recognize and minimize the unwarranted effects of the availability of these medications on the Internet.
Drug overdose death rates have increased steadily in the United States since 1979. In 2008, a total of 36,450 drug overdose deaths (i.e., unintentional, intentional [suicide or homicide], or undetermined intent) were reported, with prescription opioid analgesics (e.g., oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone), cocaine, and heroin the drugs most commonly involved (1). Since the mid-1990s, community-based programs have offered opioid overdose prevention services to persons who use drugs, their families and friends, and service providers. Since 1996, an increasing number of these programs have provided the opioid antagonist naloxone hydrochloride, the treatment of choice to reverse the potentially fatal respiratory depression caused by overdose of heroin and other opioids (2). Naloxone has no effect on non-opioid overdoses (e.g., cocaine, benzodiazepines, or alcohol) (3). In October 2010, the Harm Reduction Coalition, a national advocacy and capacity-building organization, surveyed 50 programs known to distribute naloxone in the United States, to collect data on local program locations, naloxone distribution, and overdose reversals. This report summarizes the findings for the 48 programs that completed the survey and the 188 local programs represented by the responses. Since the first opioid overdose prevention program began distributing naloxone in 1996, the respondent programs reported training and distributing naloxone to 53,032 persons and receiving reports of 10,171 overdose reversals. Providing opioid overdose education and naloxone to persons who use drugs and to persons who might be present at an opioid overdose can help reduce opioid overdose mortality, a rapidly growing public health concern.
Acute cannabis consumption and motor vehicle collision risk: systematic review of observational studies and meta-analysis
ObjectiveTo determine whether the acute consumption of cannabis (cannabinoids) by drivers increases the risk of a motor vehicle collision.DesignSystematic review of observational studies, with meta-analysis.Data sourcesWe did electronic searches in 19 databases, unrestricted by year or language of publication. We also did manual searches of reference lists, conducted a search for unpublished studies, and reviewed the personal libraries of the research team.Review methodsWe included observational epidemiology studies of motor vehicle collisions with an appropriate control group, and selected studies that measured recent cannabis use in drivers by toxicological analysis of whole blood or self report. We excluded experimental or simulator studies. Two independent reviewers assessed risk of bias in each selected study, with consensus, using the Newcastle-Ottawa scale. Risk estimates were combined using random effects models.ResultsWe selected nine studies in the review and meta-analysis. Driving under the influence of cannabis was associated with a significantly increased risk of motor vehicle collisions compared with unimpaired driving (odds ratio 1.92 (95% confidence interval 1.35 to 2.73); P=0.0003); we noted heterogeneity among the individual study effects (I2=81). Collision risk estimates were higher in case-control studies (2.79 (1.23 to 6.33); P=0.01) and studies of fatal collisions (2.10 (1.31 to 3.36); P=0.002) than in culpability studies (1.65 (1.11 to 2.46); P=0.07) and studies of non-fatal collisions (1.74 (0.88 to 3.46); P=0.11).ConclusionsAcute cannabis consumption is associated with an increased risk of a motor vehicle crash, especially for fatal collisions. This information could be used as the basis for campaigns against drug impaired driving, developing regional or national policies to control acute drug use while driving, and raising public awareness.
Emergency Department Visits Involving Illicit Drug Use among Males
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Examines characteristics of emergency department treatment visits involving illicit drug use among males based on annual averages for combined 2004 to 2009 data. Reports trends in age, drug involved, and disposition of the visit.
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New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Homeless Women Veterans: Actions Needed to Ensure Safe and Appropriate Housing. GAO-12-182, December 23.
2. Prescription Pain Reliever Abuse: Agencies Have Begun Coordinating Education Efforts, but Need to Assess Effectiveness. GAO-12-115, December 22.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587300.pdf
3. Department of Justice: Working Capital Fund Adheres to Some Operating Principles But Could Better Measure Performance and Communicate With Customers. GAO-12-289, January 20.
Highlights - http://www.gao.gov/assets/590/587849.pdf
CDC Grand Rounds: Prescription Drug Overdoses — a U.S. Epidemic
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
In 2007, approximately 27,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States, one death every 19 minutes. Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. The increase in unintentional drug overdose death rates in recent years (Figure 1) has been driven by increased use of a class of prescription drugs called opioid analgesics (1). Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined (Figure 2) (1). In addition, for every unintentional overdose death related to an opioid analgesic, nine persons are admitted for substance abuse treatment (2), 35 visit emergency departments (3), 161 report drug abuse or dependence, and 461 report nonmedical uses of opioid analgesics (4). Implementing strategies that target those persons at greatest risk will require strong coordination and collaboration at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, as well as engagement of parents, youth influencers, health-care professionals, and policy-makers.
Overall, rates of opioid analgesic misuse and overdose death are highest among men, persons aged 20–64 years, non-Hispanic whites, and poor and rural populations. Persons who have mental illness are overrepresented among both those who are prescribed opioids and those who overdose on them. Further defining populations at greater risk is critical for development and implementation of effective interventions. The two main populations in the United States at risk for prescription drug overdose are the approximately 9 million persons who report long-term medical use of opioids (5), and the roughly 5 million persons who report nonmedical use (i.e., use without a prescription or medical need), in the past month (4). In an attempt to treat patient pain better, practitioners have greatly increased their rate of opioid prescribing over the past decade. Drug distribution through the pharmaceutical supply chain was the equivalent of 96 mg of morphine per person in 1997 and approximately 700 mg per person in 2007, an increase of >600% (6). That 700 mg of morphine per person is enough for everyone in the United States to take a typical 5 mg dose of Vicodin (hydrocodone and acetaminophen) every 4 hours for 3 weeks. Persons who abuse opioids have learned to exploit this new practitioner sensitivity to patient pain, and clinicians struggle to treat patients without overprescribing these drugs.
Among patients who are prescribed opioids, an estimated 80% are prescribed low doses (<100 mg morphine equivalent dose per day) by a single practitioner (7,8), and these patients account for an estimated 20% of all prescription drug overdoses (Figure 3). Another 10% of patients are prescribed high doses (≥100 mg morphine equivalent dose per day) of opioids by single prescribers and account for an estimated 40% of prescription opioid overdoses (9,10). The remaining 10% of patients are of greatest concern. These are patients who seek care from multiple doctors and are prescribed high daily doses, and account for another 40% of opioid overdoses (11). Persons in this third group not only are at high risk for overdose themselves but are likely diverting or providing drugs to others who are using them without prescriptions. In fact, 76% of nonmedical users report getting drugs that had been prescribed to someone else, and only 20% report that they acquired the drug from their own doctor (4). Furthermore, among persons who died of opioid overdoses, a significant proportion did not have a prescription in their records for the opioid that killed them; in West Virginia, Utah, and Ohio, 25%–66% of those who died of pharmaceutical overdoses used opioids originally prescribed to someone else (11–13). These data suggest that prevention of opioid overdose deaths should focus on strategies that target 1) high-dosage medical users and 2) persons who seek care from multiple doctors, receive high doses, and likely are involved in drug diversion.
A three-part Series assesses the global public-health toll and policy implications of drug addiction. The first paper summarises data for the prevalence and consequences of problem use of amphetamines, cannabis, cocaine, and opioids. In high-income countries, illicit drug use contributes less to the burden of disease than tobacco, but a substantial proportion of that burden is due to alcohol. Intelligent policy responses to drug problems need better prevalence data for different types of illicit drug use and the harms that their use causes globally. This need is especially urgent in high-income countries with substantial rates of illicit drug use and in low-income and middle-income countries close to illicit drug production areas. The second paper reviews existing drug policies and highlights the need for greater reliance on scientific evidence-based policy making. The final paper examines the value of international drug conventions in protecting public health.
(Free registration required.)
Major metropolitan areas show significant variation in the rates of emergency department (ED) visits involving illicit drugs. In terms of overall illicit drug-related emergency room visits, Boston has the highest rate (571 per 100,000 population), followed by New York City (555 per 100,000 population), Chicago (507 per 100,000 population), and Detroit (462 per 100,000 population). By comparison the national average was 317 per 100,000 population.
This new report published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was drawn from the agency’s Drug Abuse Warning Network – (DAWN), a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related emergency department visits throughout the nation. This information was collected from eleven metropolitan areas including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami (Dade County and Fort Lauderdale Division), Minneapolis, New York (Five Boroughs Division), Phoenix, San Francisco, and Seattle.
Marijuana use continues to rise among U.S. teens, while alcohol use hits historic lows (PDF)
Source: Monitoring the Future Study (University of Michigan)
Among the more important findings from this year’s Monitoring the Future survey of U.S. secondary school students are the following:
- Marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year—a sharp contrast to the considerable decline that had occurred in the preceding decade. Daily marijuana use is now at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors.
- “Synthetic marijuana,” which until earlier this year was legally sold and goes by such names as “K2” and “spice,” was added to the study’s coverage in 2011; one in every nine high school seniors (11.4%) reported using that drug in the prior 12 months.
- Alcohol use—and, importantly, occasions of heavy drinking—continued a long-term gradual decline among teens, reaching historically low levels in 2011.
- Energy drinks are being consumed by about one third of teens, with use highest among younger teens.
Synthetic Drugs: Overview and Issues for Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Synthetic drugs, as opposed to natural drugs, are chemically produced in a laboratory. Their chemical structure can be either identical to or different from naturally occurring drugs, and their effects are designed to mimic or even enhance those of natural drugs. When produced clandestinely, they are not typically controlled pharmaceutical substances intended for legitimate medical use. Designer drugs are a form of synthetic drugs. They contain slightly modified molecular structures of illegal or controlled substances, and they are modified in order to circumvent existing drug laws. While the issue of synthetic drugs and their abuse is not new, the 112 th Congress has demonstrated a renewed concern with the issue.
Synthetic drug abuse is reported to have dramatically increased between 2009 and 2011. Calls to poison control centers for incidents relating to harmful effects of synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants have increased at what some consider to be an alarming rate. The reported harmful effects of these substances range from nausea to drug-induced psychosis. Due to the unpredictable nature of synthetic drugs and of human consumption of these drugs, the true effects of these drugs are unknown. Many states have responded to this issue by passing synthetic drug laws banning certain synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants.
In March 2011, the Attorney General—through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)— used his temporary scheduling authority to place five synthetic cannabinoids on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). In October 2011, the DEA used this temporary scheduling authority to add three synthetic stimulants to Schedule I. Concern over the reported increase in use of certain synthetic cannabinoids and stimulants has led some to call on Congress to legislatively schedule specific substances. This is, in part, because congressional action could permanently place certain substances onto Schedule I of the CSA more quickly than might occur through administrative scheduling actions authorized by the CSA.
Several bills have been introduced in the 112 th Congress that confront the issue of synthetic drug use and abuse. These include the Combating Dangerous Synthetic Stimulants Act of 2011 (H.R. 1571, S. 409); the Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011 (H.R. 1254) and its companion bill—the Dangerous Synthetic Drug Control Act of 2011 (also known as the David Mitchell Rozga Act, S. 605); and the Combating Designer Drugs Act of 2011 (S. 839). While these bills differ substantively from one another, they all aim to legislatively place various synthetic drugs on Schedule I of the CSA. In considering permanent placement of specific synthetic substances on Schedule I of the CSA, there are several issues on which Congress may deliberate. Policymakers may consider the implications on the federal criminal justice system of scheduling certain synthetic substances.’
Another issue up for debate is whether Congress should schedule certain synthetic substances or whether these substances merit Attorney General (in consultation with the Secretary of HHS) scheduling based on qualifications specified in the CSA. Congress may also consider whether or not placing these synthetic drugs on Schedule I would hinder future medical research. In addition, Congress may consider whether it is more efficient to place these drugs on Schedule I of the CSA or to label them as analogue controlled substances under the Controlled Substances Analogue Enforcement Act.
Vital Signs: Overdoses of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers — United States, 1999–2008
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)
Background: Overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers (OPR), also known as opioid analgesics, have increased and now exceed deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined. This report describes the use and abuse of OPR by state.
Methods: CDC analyzed rates of fatal OPR overdoses, nonmedical use, sales, and treatment admissions.
Results: In 2008, drug overdoses in the United States caused 36,450 deaths. OPR were involved in 14,800 deaths (73.8%) of the 20,044 prescription drug overdose deaths. Death rates varied fivefold by state. States with lower death rates had lower rates of nonmedical use of OPR and OPR sales. During 1999–2008, overdose death rates, sales, and substance abuse treatment admissions related to OPR all increased substantially.
Conclusions: The epidemic of overdoses of OPR has continued to worsen. Wide variation among states in the nonmedical use of OPR and overdose rates cannot be explained by underlying demographic differences in state populations but is related to wide variations in OPR prescribing.
Implications for Public Health Practice: Health-care providers should only use OPRs in carefully screened and monitored patients when non-OPR treatments are insufficient to manage pain. Insurers and prescription drug monitoring programs can identify and take action to reduce both inappropriate and illegal prescribing. Third-party payers can limit reimbursement in ways that reduce inappropriate prescribing, discourage efforts to obtain OPR from multiple health-care providers, and improve clinical care. Changes in state laws that focus on the prescribing practices of health-care providers might reduce prescription drug abuse and overdoses while still allowing safe and effective pain treatment.
The death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade, according to an analysis in the CDC Vital Signs report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This new finding shows that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers like hydrocodone (Vicodin), methadone, oxycodone (OxyContin), and oxymorphone (Opana).
“Overdoses involving prescription painkillers are at epidemic levels and now kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, ” said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “States, health insurers, health care providers and individuals have critical roles to play in the national effort to stop this epidemic of overdoses while we protect patients who need prescriptions to control pain. ”
The increased use of prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons (without a prescription for the high they cause), along with growing sales, has contributed to the large number of overdoses and deaths. In 2010, 1 in every 20 people in the United States age 12 and older—a total of 12 million people—reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Based on the data from the Drug Enforcement Administration, sales of these drugs to pharmacies and health care providers have increased by more than 300 percent since 1999.
“Prescription drug abuse is a silent epidemic that is stealing thousands of lives and tearing apart communities and families across America, ” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “From day one, we have been laser–focused on this crisis by taking a comprehensive public health and public safety approach. All of us have a role to play. Health care providers and patients should be educated on the risks of prescription painkillers. And parents and grandparents can take time today to properly dispose of any unneeded or expired medications from the home and to talk to their kids about the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. ”
In April, the Administration released a comprehensive action plan to address the national prescription drug abuse epidemic to reduce this public health burden.
Titled “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis , ” the plan includes support for the expansion of state–based prescription drug monitoring programs, more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, education for patients and healthcare providers, and support for law enforcement efforts that reduce the prevalence of “pill mills” and doctor shopping.
Already, 48 states have implemented state–based monitoring programs designed to reduce diversion and doctor shopping while protecting patient privacy and the Department of Justice has conducted a series of takedowns of rogue pain clinics operating as “pill mills. ” President Obama has also signed into law the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act, which will allow states and local communities to collect and safely dispose of unwanted prescription drugs and support DEA’s ongoing national efforts to collect unneeded or expired prescription drugs which have collected over 300 tons of medications over the past year.