Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Prescription painkiller abuse linked to rise in heroin use in Washington

According to a report recently released by the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI), Washington 10th grade students who abuse prescription painkillers are more likely to have tried heroin than students who had not abused painkillers.  The chart below illustrates the connection between prescription painkillers and heroin use among 10th grade students.

This is especially troubling in NE Seattle because over the past six years teenagers in our community have increasingly reported that they abuse prescription drugs.

The ADAI study also reports that heroin use has more than doubled over the past ten years in people under 30 in our state.  Along with that use comes an increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for heroin among young adults ages 18 to 29 years old. 

One way to prevent heroin use among young adults is to prevent prescription drug abuse among teenagers.  The Prevention WINS coalition educates parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and advises them to monitor and lock up their medications.  Families should also dispose of unused medicines.  The most environmentally-friendly and safe way to dispose of unused medicines is to take advantage of medicine return programs that, in NE Seattle, are offered at Group Health and at some Bartell drug stores.

Since medicine return programs are not available consistently throughout the county, the King County Board of Health is considering adopting a policy that would establish a permanent program funded and implemented by drug manufacturers.  The Board will vote on the proposed policy during their June 20 meeting.  Prevention WINS is a member of the King County Take Back Your Meds Coalition and supports the proposed policy.

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