Prescription drug abuse reduction initiative launched

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An initiative launched Wednesday in Montana aims to curb rampant prescription drug abuse.

“Almost one person is dying every day from medications I or my colleagues have prescribed in good faith,” emergency and family doctor William Gallea said at a press conference at St. Peter’s Hospital in Helena. “The deaths have rightly been called an epidemic.”

The cornerstone of the initiative is a new website called knowyourdosemt.org, announced by the Montana Medical Association, Department of Justice and other partners. The site, funded largely by Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Justice Department, is the culmination of 18 months of research by the partners and work done by a legislative committee tasked with studying the problem.

Gallea called the online resource a gold mine of information for patients, families and providers on abuse statistics, pain management, prescribing practices, medication disposal and more.

Attorney General Tim Fox said the site should help heighten awareness of an issue that still largely remains out of the mainstream compared to alcohol and marijuana. While most kids in the state have had conversations with their parents about beer and marijuana, only 24 percent have discussed the dangers of prescription drugs such as Vicodin and OxyContin, according to a 2008 survey referenced on the website.

“This important new resource is a tool that will spur conversations in hospital rooms and living rooms,” Fox said.

The abuse of prescription drugs contributes to the deaths of more than 300 Montanans every year. The state also has the third-highest rate in the country of kids ages 12-17 reporting abuse of prescription pain relievers. Most abusing the narcotic pain medication are getting it free from family or friends.

Nationally, just over half of the 43,982 deaths from drug overdoses in 2013 involved prescription drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gallea said that the initiative is not about preventing doctors from prescribing medications to patients with chronic pain who respond well to that kind of treatment.

“Chronic pain is common and debilitating and can be very hard to treat,” he said. “In part, our prescribing practices have lent to this challenging situation. We fully know that we can be part of the solution and that starts with the conversations we have with our patients and in knowing current best medical practices.”

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