According to the National Governors Association (NGA), prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States and the second most common type of drug abuse (following marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds). Prescription drugs account for nearly 60% of all deaths from drug overdose. Pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone are involved in three of every four prescription drug overdose fatalities.
In 2012, the NGA established the Prescription Drug Abuse Project led by NGA Vice Chair Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Gov. Robert Bentley (R-AL). Throughout the yearlong initiative, seven states—Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia—worked to develop comprehensive, coordinated plans to combat the public health and safety crisis. During the 2014 Winter Meeting, NGA released an issue brief detailing lessons learned from the policy academy. The issue brief details specific policy changes made in the seven states to reduce prescription drug abuse. In addition, the NGA highlighted lessons learned from the policy academy that can inform other states’ efforts to combat the abuse such as:
- Changing prescribing behavior;
- Tackling the underuse of prescription drug monitoring programs; and
- Ensuring that data, metrics and evaluation are driving policy and practice.
The NGA staff will continue to work with teams of senior-level policymakers including governors’ health and criminal justice advisors, state health officials, attorneys general, state chief information officers, legislators, physicians and allied health professional groups to examine a variety of issues related to prescription drug abuse, including:
- Building and governing a prescription drug monitoring program and implementing privacy safeguards;
- Assessing legislative, regulatory and information exchange barriers;
- Developing a coordinated state response across agencies;
- Coordinating education, tracking and monitoring, proper medication disposal and enforcement efforts.