Yesterday, Delaware was honored to host the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerkikowske, to mark another step on the difficult road to curbing prescription drug addiction. It’s always encouraging to see state and the federal government working together, particularly when the issue is deadly serious.
Since 1999, drug-related deaths have doubled nationwide, surpassing homicides, suicides and gunshot wounds as causes of death. This increase is largely due to the abuse of prescription painkillers.
This is a substantial national problem that requires coordinated local solutions to address. We need to continue sharing information to ensure that we find the most effective approach to dealing with a problem that has fueled skyrocketing national statistics and heartbreaking local tragedies.
Our new law, sponsored by Senators Brian Bushweller and Bethany Hall-Long, and Representatives Larry Mitchell and Melanie George, authorizes the creation of a database of prescription information from pharmacies. This will help accomplish two things:
- Doctors will be able to check the database and screen for abuse before giving prescriptions for controlled substances. This helps prevent “doctor shopping” by allowing to the doctor to see if a patient has similar prescriptions from other medical providers.
- Physicians can also easily verify that they are not prescribing drugs that could interact dangerously with existing prescriptions from other doctors. This can save lives and improve health outcomes for anyone taking more than one prescription drug.
Other states have implemented similar prescription drug monitoring programs and are collecting and analyzing prescription data more effectively. Now we will too.
The statistics are astounding. From Office of National Drug Control Policy blog:
- In recent years, the number of individuals who, for the first time, consumed prescription drugs for a non-medical purpose, exceeded the number of first-time marijuana users.
- From 1997 to 2007 there was a 400% increase in treatment admissions for individuals primarily abusing prescription pain killers.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported recently that prescription and over-the-counter drugs were responsible for the 25% increase in drug-related emergency room visits between 2004 and 2008.
- By 2008 emergency room visits for misused prescription and over-the-counter drugs were as common as emergency visits for use of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin.