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University of Colorado Denver

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Celebrating success and recommitting to the cause: A recap of the first annual meeting of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention


After forming just one year ago, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention has already made tremendous strides in helping to lower the rate of prescription drug abuse.

The group had their first annual meeting on Oct. 3 at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, which was attended by Attorney General John Suthers, representatives from Governor John Hickenlooper’s office, Senator John Kefalas, Senator Irene Aguilar, Representative Beth McCann and a number of medical professionals.

The progress made since their first meeting inspires hope. According to Lisa Clement, Director of the Office of Behavioral Health, “Colorado decreased from number 2 in the nation to number 16 in terms of prescription drug abuse.” Additionally, she says, “Colorado’s youth use rate decreased and is below the national average.” 

Colorado’s sharp reduction in drug use is due, at least in part, to the work of the Consortium and their multi-pronged approach to this critical issue. The group has worked alongside legislators and other government entities to tighten regulations and closely monitor patients using opioid drugs. 

Already, legislation has passed in this area that has helped better regulate prescription medications, limit doctor shopping and increase the number of drug take back sites and decrease the liability for dropping off these medications.

House Bill 14-1283 requires practitioners and users to register with the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which will send push notifications that indicate doctor shopping and help put an end opioid medication abuse.  According to Larry Wolk, Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the next big challenge is how to safely dispose of prescription drugs to prevent nonmedical usage.

House Bill 1207 is a possible solution to this problem because it increases the number of take back sites and decreases the liability for those who drop off the drugs. Many pharmacists see a potential problem with this plan, though, because many pharmacies do not have the resources to dispose of these drugs. This will be another issue for the Consortium to try to solve in the upcoming year.   Attorney General John Suthers celebrated the progress made and recommitted himself to the cause, saying, “It’s because we are united in this effort that we can achieve our goal to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.”

Next stop in the fight against prescription drug abuse: Public awareness.

With so much positive collaboration occurring in conjunction with the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, the task force appointed by Governor John Hickenlooper and the legislator, the mission now is to educate the public.

The Consortium has sought external help with this mission, enlisting the professionals at Webb Strategic Communications. This Denver PR firm has worked on many notable campaigns, including “The heat is on”, “Speak now!” and “No DUI Colorado”.

Currently, the plan is to launch a social marketing campaign in early 2015, aimed at informing the public about the basics of responsible prescription drug use.

According to Carol Runyan, a professor of Public Health at CU, the main message they are trying to communicate is safe use, safe storage and safe disposal.

Most people know the basic rule that you should only use prescription medication as directed by your doctor or pharmacist, but there are some misperceptions about how to safely store and dispose of medication.

For instance, it is common knowledge that you should keep your prescriptions away from children, but it is also important to lock away certain opioids in order to prevent adult family members or friends from accessing them. You also want to refrain from storing medications in the medicine cabinet of the bathroom because the excessive heat and humidity in this location can cause medications to expire rapidly. 

Much confusion also remains amongst the public as to how to safely and responsibly dispose of prescription medications. One common belief is that flushing prescription drugs down the toilet is the best option; however, experts disagree with that practice and say that this can harm aquatic life and negatively impact the drinking supply.

The goal of the social marketing campaign planned to launch in early 2015 is to inform the public about prescription drug safety and dispel any misinformation out there about the use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs.

In order to become a healthier state with fewer instances of prescription drug overdoses, Coloradans need to become aware of some of these basic facts and become more responsible consumers. For more information on the consortium, visit