Oregon is No. 1 in the country for nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers, but much further down the list for fatal drug overdoses, according to a new study.
Trust for America’s Health’s 2013 report, “Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic,” gives a snapshot of where each state stands in terms of the magnitude of the problem and steps they are taking to address it.
Prescription painkiller deaths have quadrupled in the past decade in the U.S. as a whole and now outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined.
- Read more from the Portland Business Journal's series on the price of addiction.
“What’s particularly worrisome is how quickly the numbers have gone up,” said Rich Hamburg, deputy director of Trust for America’s Health.
In Oregon, the drug overdose mortality rate rose from 6 per 100,000 in 1999 to nearly 13 per 100,000 in 2010, making it 21st in the nation. West Virginia, which was No. 1, saw an even more dramatic increase, from 4 to 29 per 100,000. The state with the lowest mortality rate was South Dakota, at 6.3 per 100,000.
The report looked at drugs for pain, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and insomnia. Among the most misused prescription medications are OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin, all high-addictive opioids prescribed as painkillers.
Here are a few more eye-opening facts from the report:
- More than six million Americans abuse or misuse prescription drugs.
- In 2006, nonmedical use of prescription painkillers imposed a cost of $53.4 billion on the U.S. economy, in the form of lost productivity, increased criminal justice costs, drug abuse treatment and medical complications.
- More than 70,000 children go to the emergency department due to medication poisoning every year.
- In Oregon, the percentage use of prescription pain relievers in the past year by people 12 or older was 6.4 percent, the highest of any state and above the national rate of 4.6.
There is one bright spot: The number of people 2 years or older currently abusing prescription drugs fell nationwide from 7 million in 2010 to 6.1 million in 2011.
The report also looked at how many of 10 strategies to combat prescription drug abuse each state is taking. Oregon met eight of the 10:
- A prescription drug monitoring program, which is a database doctors and pharmacies can use to track prescriptions.
- Doctor-shopping laws to prevent patients from withholding information about prior prescriptions from their health care provider.
- Expanding Medicaid and therefore, access to substance abuse treatment.
- Requirement for pain education.
- Civil immunity for administering the “rescue” drug naloxone.
- A physical exam requirement before prescribing.
- Requiring an ID before dispensing.
- A lock-in program under the state's Medicaid plan where individuals suspected of misusing controlled substances must use a single prescriber and pharmacy.
“A problem like this clearly is getting worse and worse and there’s no silver bullet from a policy standpoint,” Hamburg said. “The bottom line is prescription drug abuse is an epidemic and warrants study and a public health response.”
The Portland Business Journal is a KATU.com news partner.