With undisputed evidence that certain opioid-based prescription drugs are extremely addictive and lead to abuse and escalation of use of dangerous illegal drugs, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin applauded the move by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify certain hydrocodone pain medications, restricting the number of pills people may receive without obtaining a new prescription. The move by the DEA also requires that, in most instances, patients will have to present to a pharmacy a prescription from a health-care provider and no longer can rely on a phoned or faxed-in prescription.
"Prescription drug abuse, especially abuse of opioid-based drugs, has become an epidemic in this country and can be a gateway to using more dangerous and illicit drugs, like heroin, to get a greater high. I commend the DEA for taking action to better control the distribution of these drugs and for recognizing the direct connection between over-prescription and overuse and abuse that has escalated in our communities," said Attorney General Kilmartin. "This move by DEA is just one piece of the puzzle. We need to continue to work with the medical community, addiction specialists, public health officials and law enforcement to curb prescription drug abuse."
On Friday, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that opioid prescription data is now available on HEALTH's website. Rhode Island is the first state to make such data available to the public.
"It is this kind of proactive approach by our public health officials that will help to drive down prescription drug abuse and shine a bright spotlight on this public health issue," added Kilmartin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that more than 16,500 people died after overdosing on opioid-based painkillers in 2010. No other class of drugs, legal or illegal, is responsible for as many deaths, its figures show.
Public health studies cite the increase in use of opioid-based prescription drugs to an increase in the use and abuse of illegal opioid-based drugs, specifically heroin. In 2014, Rhode Island saw a significant spike in fatal heroin overdoses. Addiction specialists, public health officials and law enforcement have worked together to address the dangerous trend and to better educate the public and advocate for stricter controls on opioid-based prescription drugs, resulting in a drop in reported overdoses.
Recognizing the connection between prescription drug abuse and illegal drug use, Rhode Island law enforcement and substance abuse organizations have supported efforts to rid homes of dangerous prescription drugs. For the past several years, Attorney General Kilmartin has joined police departments across the state to support Prescription Drug Take Back Days. Since the program was launched in 2010, more than 2,123 tons of pharmaceuticals were safely disposed of, ensuring they were not abused. The DEA has scheduled the next Prescription Drug Take Bay Day for Saturday, September 27, 2014.
"The reaction from the public to the Prescription Drug Take Back Days has been terrific. More and more, people understand the dangers of having unwanted, unused and expired medications in their homes. The demand to rid homes of these prescription pills has been so successful that many police departments now offer the free service year-round," concluded Kilmartin.