COLUMN: Fighting prescription drug abuse

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State Senator

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that more people abuse prescription drugs in the U.S. than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined. One in 20 people in the U.S. have used prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons. Every 25 minutes someone dies from a prescription drug overdose.

Prescription drug abuse is not only a national epidemic, but an epidemic in Indiana as well. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, 718 Hoosiers died from accidental drug overdoses in 2011, compared to 654 deaths in 2010.

To combat this deadly epidemic, the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force and the state Attorney General recently launched www. bitterpill.in.gov, a comprehensive website that’s part of a statewide public awareness campaign targeting Indiana’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.

Availability is one reason prescription drug abuse in on the rise. People are experiencing more health problems and more drugs are becoming available for doctors to prescribe. Online pharmacies make it easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription. Any drug has the potential to be misused or abused, and the three most common are pain-killers, depressants and stimulants.

Prescription drug abuse does not discriminate against age, race, gender or income. However, according to the 2011 Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in five high-school students in Indiana used controlled substances without prescriptions. Prescription drugs frequently end up in the home medicine cabinet, providing easy access for young children. What may be considered a “safe” high, because it was prescribed by a doctor, can quickly become deadly.

The Indiana General Assembly recently approved two new laws to combat prescription drug abuse. Clinics that prescribe, dispense or administer controlled substances are targeted under one new law that allows the attorney general’s office to move more quickly in taking enforcement action against practitioners who overprescribe prescription drugs. Another new law made improvements to the effectiveness of the state’s prescription drug monitoring program called INSPECT, and established an interim legislative committee to study and recommend additional enhancements to the program.

The task force, attorney general’s office and state legislators will continue to examine educational opportunities and polices to reduce the dreadful impact prescription drug abuse has on Hoosier families and communities. For more information on prescription drug abuse, medicine disposal or safe storage, raising awareness or how to report illegal sharing or selling of prescription drugs, log on to www.bitterpill.in.gov.

Young represents Perry County in the Indiana Senate.