Prescription drug abuse tragedies impact many as epidemic continues

Advocates call for better education, legislation

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 15 2012 8:00 p.m. MDT

The Drug Enforcement Administration is also drafting rules to provide easier access to drug disposal, according to the CDC. The official recommendation is to flush them down the toilet, Paulozzi said, but he also recommends removing the drug from packaging and mixing it with a substance such as kitty litter. The problem comes when people don't do anything at all and keep the drugs at home, he said.

The FDA recommends not flushing drugs down the toilet unless the information specifically instructs doing so. Otherwise, bring them to a drug take-back location or throw them in the household trash after mixing them in something undesirable and putting them in a sealable baggie or empty can or other container.

In support of medication disposal efforts, the DEA held national Prescription Drug Take-Back Events in 2010 and 2011. During the first two such events, approximately 309 tons of drugs were collected at more than 5,000 sites across the country.

Still, Pasierb said more education is not only crucial for patients, but also for doctors.

"Every three years there should be mandatory education for doctors," he said. "Older doctors need to be educated about the new trends."

Bauer agreed that many times doctors do not receive the proper training about addiction.

"We need physician education and we need to continue to watch how drugs are being manufactured and marketed," Bauer said.

Whether it is mandating physician and patient education or locking down prescription monitoring practices nationwide, solutions need to be implemented soon, Pasierb said.

"We make incremental progress where we could be make big gains," he said. "What we need here are urgent solutions. As we talk here today, someone is going to die from prescription drug abuse."

It will be a challenge for policy makers to change the current lax attitudes and expectations that most Americans have with regard to drug access, experts say.

"We have created a large cohort of individuals who are going to want to continue practices as usual," Paulozzi said. "The problem is not going to turn on a dime."

A different pain

Phil Bauer recalls how he and son Mark would play basketball together in the driveway. The games were very competitive and Bauer would often walk away with injuries such as a sprained ankle or broken finger. That pain, however, was welcome as it defined the close connection of father and son.

"I miss that pain so much," Bauer said. "Because that's how we touched each other when he was a teenager. That was our way of hugging I think."

The pain Bauer feels now is much different.

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