a couple weeks back about state and federal officials calling a summit in response to what they called a nationwide prescription drug problem. We went to the summit today and learned the following three things from the gathering called by Attorney General John Kroger,
Gov. Ted Kulongoski
and Acting U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton
1) Drug-induced deaths are on the rise, especially among young people. One in ten 10th graders reported using Vicodin and one in twenty 12th graders reported using Oxycontin in the past year
nationally, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. “One-third of pharmaceutical drugs were given to teens from a friend or relative,” says Tim Condon
, White House specialist on National Drug Control Policy. “And that alone is a huge number.”
2) The number one prescriber for teens ages 15-19? “Dentists,” says Condon
. He said he is bringing in the American Dental Association to discuss solutions. “Prescribers, pharmacists, patients, parents and anyone who uses prescription drugs must be educated about the national prescription misuse epidemic,” Condon said at the summit attended by about 100 people at the US District Courthouse in Portland
3) The two previous points make the prescription drug epidemic unique, said Condon. He called it “unlike the cocaine epidemic in the 1990's in Brooklyn, and it's not like heroin coming from Mexico or Thailand.”
The problem is complicated, and it showed from the diverse audience. Representatives ranged from Purdue Pharma and Kaiser Permanente to the American Pain Foundation and Fred Meyer. The solutions Condon promoted included educating the community about prescription drug abuse, enhancing monitoring systems (Oregon aims to have one later this year), making medication disposal systems easier and more environmentally sound, and giving law enforcement better tools.
“Kids are crying out for help,” Holton said at the summit. “And it's the responsibility of everybody in this room."