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Jul 26

Decline in Prescription Drug Abuse More than Twice as High in States with Drug Abuse Prevention Programs, Says Study

A study by Quest Diagnostics found that five states that have recently implemented comprehensive prescription drug abuse prevention programs showed the highest rate of decline in prescription drug abuse nationwide. Findings suggest that broad, collaborative measures, including prescription drug databases and physician and patient education may be the most effective at bringing the nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic to a screeching halt.

According to a study of more than 1.4 million drug test results between 2011 and 2013. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York and Tennessee showed the highest rates of decline in abuse rates over the last three years. The average decline for these states was 10.7 percent, nearly 2.5 times higher than the average decline of 4.4 percent for all other states combined in the 46-state study.

In addition, researchers found that 55 percent of Americans abused prescription medicine in 2013, an 8 percent decrease to abuse rates of 63 percent in 2013. Based on results, all age groups and both genders were at risk of abusing these drugs.

“Prescription drug misuse remains at alarming levels, with more than one in two patients putting their health at risk through inappropriate and potentially dangerous misuse of drug therapies,” said F. Leland McClure, Ph.D., a study investigator and director, pain management, mass spectrometry operations, Quest Diagnostics. “But the multi-year analysis yielded some positive findings, including significant decreases in certain states with comprehensive prescription drug abuse programs. These findings indicate that, armed with the right strategies and tools, policymakers and health professionals are making headway against the prescription drug epidemic.”

The findings support previous research that suggests that broad drug abuse approaches may be effective. A July 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), noted a 23 percent decrease in drug overdose deaths in Florida between 2010 and 2012, with similar improvements in New York and Tennessee. Between August 2011 and July 2013, the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy found that there was a 10 percent decrease in opioid prescriptions handed out following the implementation of the state’s comprehensive drug abuse legislation that integrated the efforts of providers, public health officials and law enforcement.

“Healthcare practitioners need to know that their patients are not following their instructions,” said Michael R. Clark, M.D., MPH, MBA, associate professor and director, Chronic Pain Treatment Program, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, The Johns Hopkins Hospital. “While inconsistency rates have decreased over time, patients are still substituting, supplementing, and diverting their prescribed controlled substances. In fact, over recent years, patients are supplementing their prescribed medications with increasing amounts of non-prescribed substances.”

In addition, the study found that adolescents experienced the greatest decline in prescription abuse. Inconsistency rates for those aged 10 to 17 decreased from 70 percent in 2011 to 57 percent in 2013, an improvement of 13 percent. Patients aged 64 and over had the lowest rate of abuse, at 44 percent.
One in five patients, or 6.6 percent, tested positive for heroin and negative for morphine. The number of heroin users in America has increased about 80 percent between 2007 and 2012, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

“Given the growing trend of heroin abuse, clinicians should reconsider long-standing conventional wisdom that morphine testing can reliably reveal heroin abuse,” said Dr. McClure.

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