Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Prescription drug abuse: resources, local data, prevention

Online resource for teens
NIDA recently launched PEERx, a national public awareness campaign to inform teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.  PEERx provides educators, mentors, student leaders, and teens with science-based information about the impact of prescription drug abuse on the brain and body.

Prescription drug abuse can lead to heroin use
Recent stories by KPLU and reported that heroin use has increased among young people in King County.  Here's an excerpt from

"It's disturbing and concerning and unfortunately not surprising," said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute . . . "We've seen a big increase in the number of young adults (18-29) coming into drug treatment for heroin over the last 10 years in King County, that number has about doubled," he said. "It's concerning because it's generally several years before a person enters drug treatment after they've begun using a drug. So, if we're looking at young adults, it means they're starting in adolescence."

For many youth hooked on heroin, their addiction began with prescription pain pills like OxyContin. 

In an annual survey of heroin users, Banta-Green said 40 percent admitted that that they were initially hooked on prescription pain type pills.  

"There's a very clear connection," he said. 

Local data
Washington substance abuse data, by county, is available on the University of Washington Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute's website.  Data include deaths related to prescription opiates.

Source of prescription drugs: family and friends
The Office of National Drug Control Policy released a new analysis of data from the 2009 and 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health revealing that the majority of new or occasional nonmedical users of pain relievers obtained the drug from family or friends for free or took them without asking.

Data from the national Monitoring the Future study confirms this.

What can be done?
The April 23 CESAR FAX suggests that reducing the available supply of prescription drugs in households through drug take-back programs is one method that may reduce the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.  In Washington, the Take Back Your Meds coalition continues to advocate for a permanent statewide take-back program funded by pharmaceutical companies.  

Other ways to prevent prescription drug abuse are discussed in a recent New York Times online forum.

A federal bill was introduced that would link states' prescription drug monitoring programs.  The nationwide system would allow physicians to see if a new patient has a history of drug abuse in another state before writing a prescription.

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