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States Link Rx Drug Databases to Better Track Overprescribing, Abuse of Pain Meds

Rhode Island and Connecticut state health officials announced a new partnership Thursday, which will better allow them to track prescriptions filled in either state.

The two states have linked their prescription drug databases in hopes that sharing data will enable them to better identify patients trying to abuse painkillers. According to an article in the Providence Journal, R.I. officials are concerned that some patients are evading detection by visiting doctors and pharmacies in Connecticut in order to get prescription opioids like hydrocodone, the most-prescribed painkiller in that state.

Rhode Island Health Director Michael Fine said in a statement, “It is critically important for prescribers to sign-up for the PMP so they can consult the patient-specific data to check for any patterns that may indicate a substance abuse problem. Now that we have access to more data, we need to use it to help quell the pattern of over-prescribing opioids in Rhode Island.”

Use of Drugs and Alcohol Among Teens Declines Again

New data show that efforts to reduce drug use among teens have succeeded, to an extent.

Illicit drug use among people age 12 to 17 is down 24% since 2002, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), released Tuesday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). About 8.8 % of young people surveyed were current illicit drug users, down 13% from 2009. Fewer adolescents also reported consuming alcohol, with 11.6% reporting doing so in 2013 compared to 12.9% in 2012.

The NSDUH also found between 2002 and 2013, the level of teens with substance dependence or abuse problems decreased from 8.9 percent to 5.2 percent. Between 2002 and 2013, teens’ rate of regular alcohol use declined from 17.6 percent to 11.6 percent. During that period, marijuana use among teens ages 12 to 17 also declined. Teens’ recreational use of prescription painkillers decreased as well.

Many Americans who need treatment for a substance use disorder are not receiving specialty treatment, the report indicates. While 22.7 million Americans 12 and older needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol use problem last year, only 2.5 million received it in a facility designed to treat substance use disorders

“This report shows that we have made important progress in some key areas, but that we need to rejuvenate our efforts to promote prevention, treatment and recovery, to reach all aspects of our community,” SAMHSA Administrator Pamela Hyde said in an agency news release.

The NSDUH is an annual survey of a nationally representative sample of about 70,000 Americans ages 12 and older. SAMHSA released the report as part of its 25th annual observance of National Recovery Month.

CDC: Deaths from Rx painkillers Rising, but at a Slower Rate

The numbers of deaths due to overdoses of prescription painkillers continue to rise but has slowed, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report states that Prescription painkiller overdose deaths rose by 3 percent each year from 2007 to 2011, compared with 18 percent each year from 1999 through 2006.  Opioids including hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone were involved in 11,693 drug-poisoning deaths in 2011, up from 2,749 deaths in 1999.

The report noted benzodiazepines are involved in a growing number of opioid-related deaths. Benzodiazepines were involved in 31 percent of opioid-related deaths in 2011, up from 13 percent in 1999. The number of drug-poisoning deaths involving methadone, used to treat opioid dependency and pain, increased from 784 deaths in 1999 to 5,518 deaths in 2007 and then declined to 4,418 deaths in 2011.

Future government regulations and rules may continue this trend. The Drug Enforcement Administration is making painkillers that contain hydrocodone, such as Vicodin, Schedule II drugs, which means prescriptions will be limited to 30 days and doctors must write new prescriptions after that point. For the full story, click here.

U.S. to allow Pharmacies to Take back unwanted Rx Meds

Pharmacies and clinics in the U.S. will soon be allowed to take back unused prescription drugs, including opioid painkillers. According to the Wall Street Journal the change in policy will be issued in new Drug Enforcement Administration regulations effective next month.  This change addresses a request that many have made for the government to simplify how patients can safely dispose of unused pills. Click here to read the full article.

More Police are using Antidote for Opioid Overdose

Currently, over two dozen police departments across the nation are establishing programs to implement the use of naloxone to combat heroin and opioid pill overdoses. The antidote is administered by nasal spray, and its purpose is to block the effects of heroin or opioid painkillers.

Naloxone has been used for many years by paramedics and emergency room doctors, but as the U.S Office of National Drug Control encourages police departments to carry the antidote, many cities have already seen improvement. Quincy, Massachusetts was the first city to require all police officers on patrol to carry naloxone. “We embraced it and we ran with it,” said Quincy Police Chief Paul Keenan. Not far behind, The New York City police force will soon be trained and equipped with the antidote as well, according to Police Commissioner William Bratton.

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