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Prescription Drug Abuse Rates Hound Providers

Jacqueline Fellows, for HealthLeaders Media, October 5, 2012

The latest survey showing a double-digit decline in prescription drug abuse is not enough to relieve pressure on the healthcare industry to step up efforts aimed at curbing the problem.

Late last month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released figures showing that the use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes was down 14% among people aged 18-25 between 2010-2011.

It was the first decline since 2003. But, gains made among young adults are offset by an increase in adults, aged 26 and older, who reported being hooked on pain relief medication. Plus, the Centers for Disease Control still considers prescription drug abuse an epidemic.

With healthcare industry buy-in, states have attempted to curb prescription drug abuse in various ways. Every state, except Missouri, has a prescription drug monitoring program.

Bob Twillman Ph.D, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the American Academy of Pain Management, helped Kansas develop its prescription drug monitoring system. He says the programs are very effective when used, but most are voluntary, and that reduces their effectiveness.

"The challenge we have is getting people to use them. In some states, only 30% of prescribers are signing into the program. It can be a tremendous time-suck at a physician's office. I've had physicians tell me that, for a busy private practice, it could take up two hours a day."

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