Drug Deaths Exceed Traffic Deaths

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Prescription Drug Abuse Problem Prompts Political Action

In April 2011, the Obama administration revealed a plan to curtail the country's prescription drug abuse "epidemic."

"We are in the midst of a public health crisis driven by prescription drug abuses," Gil Kerlikowske, White House director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy said at the time. The plan supports state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, take-back programs that safely dispose of prescription narcotics and education programs for patients and health care providers. It's unclear when the bill will be introduced.

Saper said policies could help curb painkiller abuse, just as they helped improve road safety. But all the stakeholders, including the companies that make painkillers and the doctors who prescribe them, have to be on board.

"It's one thing to use these drugs for surgery, trauma or burns. But this stuff is given to teenagers for headaches," said Saper. "While there are people who deserve narcotics for pain, not all doctors are trained to understand how these drugs are used. They don't monitor patients carefully, and they don't look out for multisourcing" -- patients who seek drugs from multiple doctors. "Until that all can be controlled, we're not going to stave off the continued growth of drug-related deaths."

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