Substance Abuse

Painkiller Abuse Moves to the Western U.S.

Following a long battle against rampant methamphetamine abuse, officials from the western part of the country have a new enemy to fight in the form of painkiller abuse.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the epidemic of painkiller abuse which is gripping the Southern and Eastern U.S. has made a move on the western states and officials are unprepared for the invasion.

According to the 2010-11 survey released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in January, Oregon, Colorado, Washington and Idaho were among the western states that have the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the nation.

The SAMHSA report said 6.5 percent of Oregon residents aged 12 and older abuse opioid painkillers, compared with the 4.5 percent of residents who abused similar drugs in Kentucky.

Elisha Figueroa, Idaho’s drug policy administrator, said she started noticing that prescription drug abuse was becoming pervasive in the state about two years ago. At this point, they are “just in the beginning stages of grasping the full magnitude of this issue.”

In Colorado, hospital admissions due to opioids rose to 7 percent of all visits in 2012, compared to 2.5 percent in 2004. But the state’s task force still has its eyes on tackling meth abuse. Colorado’s Attorney General  John W. Suthers said lawmakers will begin exploring freeing up resources this year to address painkiller abuse.

Arizona, which ranked 6th in the SAMSHSA survey, has yet to establish a unified strategy that would combat the problem, though officials had launched pilot programs last year aimed at educating physicians in three counties about safely prescribing painkillers.

In Oregon, data shows painkiller overdose increased from 218 in 2004 to 378 in 2011. Over a year ago, the state introduced a program to monitor and track painkiller prescriptions.

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