Pilot Program Seeks to Address Abuse and Proper Disposal of Prescription Drugs

On Oct. 23, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the launch of a first-of-its-kind pilot program for providing point-of-sale substance abuse prevention information sheets to the consumers of highly abused prescription drugs.

These sheets highlight the need for preventing the abuse of these medications and provide practical advice on how to properly store medication and dispose unused amounts. This effort aims to combat the growing abuse of prescription drugs -- particularly among teens and young adults.

Recently released data from the 2006 National Survey of Drug Use and Health indicate that while levels of illicit drug abuse among youth had declined in many areas over the past few years, prescription drug abuse has grown significantly. For example, the level of nonmedical use of prescription drugs among young adults increased from 5.4 percent in 2002 to 6.4 percent in 2006, due largely to an increase in the nonmedical use of pain relievers.

"Prescription drug abuse is a serious public health problem, and we must take decisive action against it," said SAMHSA Administrator Terry Cline, Ph.D. "Most prescription drug abusers say they get access to these drugs through a friend or relative. That's why this program is so important -- consumers need to understand that these beneficial prescription medications can pose serious potential health risks if abused, and if they fall into the wrong hands. Armed with this abuse prevention information and advice on how to properly store and dispose of these drugs, consumers can play a major role in helping eliminate this problem."

SAMHSA is using the services of the prescription drug marketing firm Catalina Marketing Corp. to deliver prescription drug abuse prevention messages to consumers of highly abused prescription drugs, such as hydrocodone, select sleep aids and oxycontin (generic and brand name). Using new technology that automatically selects the appropriate abuse prevention information sheet according to the prescription being purchased, a consumer will get an abuse prevention information sheet when they have their prescription for one of these drugs filled at a pharmacy participating in this program.

This effort is a 26-week pilot project involving among 6,300 pharmacies throughout the country. The agency will measure the program's effectiveness by monitoring Web-based feedback from the public and determining how widely and effectively the program has reached out to consumers with these abuse prevention messages. Based on these assessments, SAMHSA will determine whether to terminate, continue, modify and/or expand this effort.

Additional information on this program can be found at http://www.samhsa.gov/rxsafety.

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