Prescription drug abuse surged 400 percent in past decade
A new White House study found a 400 percent jump in prescription drug abuse between 1998 and 2008. Experts blame a lack of monitoring programs as well as Americans' increasing unwillingness to bear even small pains.
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“We are in a perfect nightmare,” says Andrea Barthwell, who has advised the White House on national drug policies. Many of the factors that have come together to fuel this explosive problem – such as the lack of effective monitoring of prescriptions not just between doctors, but between pharmacies, and from state to state – have been well known for years.Skip to next paragraph
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Glaser points out that a federal monitoring program was signed into law in 2005 but funding has languished ever since. Glaser and his colleagues from the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians are just back from lobbying on Capitol Hill for $55 million to fund the program, which they say will pay for itself in five years.
Currently some 37 states have some form of monitoring, Glaser says, but they are inconsistent and lead to widespread abuse. He points to widespread practices such as:
- Easy access to prescription drugs through the Internet.
- Caravans of people crossing state lines – Florida is well known for its open-door clinics with easy access to drugs.
- Street sales fueled by lax oversight.
- Teens selling prescription drugs to each other
The increasing potency of presciption drugs can lead to what Ms. Barthwell calls a “frightening and unprecedented scenario”: “In the past, the number of people exposed to opiate-level highs was very narrow,” she says. “But now, with a wide cross-section of the population for the first time experiencing this kind of dependency, we are seeing a record number of people turning to heroin when they can no longer afford the more expensive prescription drugs.”
The data released Thursday highlight “how serious a threat to public health we face from the abuse of prescription drugs,” said Gil Kerlikowske, National Drug Policy Director, in a statement. “The spikes in prescription drug abuse rates captured by this study are dramatic, pervasive, and deeply disturbing,” he adds.
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