Thursday, April 12, 2012

Troubling statistics discussed at prescription-drug summit

Staggering statistics were revealed this week at the Orlando-based National Rx Drug Abuse Summit, including one survey that found 2 million people age 12 and older started using prescription pain medicine for non-medical reasons in 2010. A troubling 11 percent of active-duty military personnel reported misusing pain medicine in the past month, Department of Defense research shows. And more than 15,000 people die each year because of pain killers, 1,000 of whom are Kentuckians, reports Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal.

"Prescription-drug abuse is causing untold misery among our families," Gov. Steve Beshear said at the gathering, which was organized by Eastern Kentucky-based Operation UNITE. The problem is "wasting away the future of many people in the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

As he's done several times now, Beshear asked conference attendees to push legislators to pass House Bill 4, which should be voted on today in Frankfort. The bill would require pain clinics to be owned by doctors, require doctors to participate in the state's prescription-tracking system, and move the system to the attorney genera's office from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Experts said prevention is key, which involves education youth, parents, as well as doctors and pharmacists. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin doctors "need to be more cognizant of the problem," Ungar reports, recounting an incident in which a patient stole one of her prescription pads by using her 4-year-old daughter to district Benjamin.

Gil Kerlikowske, known as the country's "drug czar," said general practitioners and family medicine doctors accounted for 27 percent of all prescribers of extended-release, long-acting opioids. Internal medicine physicians were the most common specialists to prescribe, accounting for almost 17 percent of prescriptions of pain pills.

One of the problems, Kerlikowske said, is prescription drug abuse is considered more acceptable than taking other kinds of drugs. Children "see their parents taking it. It's not heroin. It's not coke." (Read more)

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