29 Apr Federal Five-Year Plan to Aggressively Attack Prescription Painkiller Abuse
The substance that is ending more lives in the U.S. than even cocaine and heroin together can be found in many home medicine cabinets – prescription painkillers. The problem is generating new government attention with a five-year plan as “pill mills” continue to pop up in Florida – and the numbers of nationwide deadly overdoses, new addictions and car accidents related to the drugs’ abuse continue to escalate.
In terms of emergency room visits, the epidemic rate of the problem of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. is even more evident. During the five-year timeframe from 2004 to 2009, visits to the E.R. for problems related to abuse and overdose of prescription medications exceeded 1.2 million – a rate double that of previous years.
Federal initiatives recently announced include plans to reduce abuse of opioid-based painkillers and oxycodone-containing medications by 15 percent during a five-year span. Education is a key of the new strategy, including more campaigns aimed at teaching patients responsible methods for taking prescription painkillers, and teaching doctors how to prescribe and monitor them.
Another element of the federal strategy against prescription painkillers is more widespread use of databases to monitor the pills. In the new plan, every state will be asked to put in place an official plan to monitor and analyze the prescriptions for painkillers being used at doctors’ offices and pharmacies. In the U.S., it is believed that 85 percent of the country’s prescriptions for painkillers originate in Florida, so efforts will be especially tailored to the state – in particular, OxyContin.
Abusers of OxyContin typically begin using the drug for chronic pain problems, but can begin abusing the substance by injecting or sniffing crushed pills to get a sense of euphoria many compare to heroin. Fatal overdose is a serious problem, with numbers of overdoses related to prescription painkillers far exceeding those related to drugs like cocaine or heroin.
U.S. roadways are also becoming less safe due to thousands of drivers taking the wheel under the influence of painkillers, resulting in increased numbers of driving fatalities. In some cases, people who have been involved in fatal car accidents related to prescription painkiller abuse were reported to have easy access to hundreds of painkillers per month, even from valid pain treatment centers.
Experts from the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research believe physician education is more critical now than ever, as many types of painkillers were not in widespread use when doctors completed their training – and new formulas continue to enter the market. Prevention and treatment programs for prescription painkiller addiction will also get a boost under the new plan, with $200 million called for to boost these efforts.
Additional efforts to fight prescription drug abuse will focus on marketing messages that are geared toward children and teens, who may have fast access to the medications from their parents’ prescriptions at home. Drug manufacturers are also expected to be part of the campaign initiatives as part of a revised, more aggressive strategy for combating prescription painkiller addiction in the U.S.
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