Herald-Whig View

Fighting prescription drug abuse involves us all

Posted: Apr. 12, 2017 11:25 am

THE Missouri House has approved a bill that would enable the state to become the last to adopt a database to track prescriptions for addictive drugs. And the plan's fiercest critic, Sen. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph, announced last week he will no longer oppose the legislation.

Clearly, those are steps in the right direction, and we urge legislators to follow through to create the prescription drug monitoring program because they have proved to be effective in other states.

Opioid addiction and subsequent overdoses are on the rise, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that more than 30,000 Americans died in 2015 in what it calls an epidemic. The CDC reports that almost half of those deaths involved prescription medication.

A database is a necessary tool. However, physicians and patients also can do their part.

The Dallas Morning News reported that a recent study found that for every 48 patients who receive an opioid prescription in the emergency room, one will likely become a long-term user. So, a more cautious approach to prescribing could save lives, and patients should do a better job of educating themselves.

U.S. health care professionals wrote 249 million prescriptions for opioid pain medicines in 2013 -- with about 8 million of those written in Illinois. Sales of prescription opioids nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2014.

The Morning News notes that the federal government -- along with some states and professional associations -- has produced extensive prescribing guidelines. Opioid medications are not the preferred option for managing chronic pain, and doctors should prescribe the lowest possible dose of opioid for the shortest duration.

The public can help, too. The Morning News pointed to one large study that showed that about half the people who misuse prescription pain medication obtained them free from friends or relatives.

Closer to home, the Adams County Coroner's Office in 2015 became responsible for collecting medications of those who died in their homes. Once collected, the medications are counted, logged and then properly disposed.

Moreover, if you have leftover medication, find an official drug take-back event or contact local law enforcement or health officials to dispose of it.

Everyone needs to be involved if we are to bring this epidemic under control.

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