CU’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences takes on a lead role.
Prescription drug abuse has been in the news a lot lately. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers it a “public health epidemic.” According to the 2010-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Colorado ranks #2 nationally for nonmedical use of opioid painkillers among youth aged 12-25. Topping this list is a dubious distinction and one that Governor Hickenlooper intends changing.
He, along with governors from six other states who have painfully high rates of prescription drug abuse are actively tackling this trend in various ways. Here in Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper pulled together experts in the field to develop and implement a plan to combat the problem. The goal is to reduce the prevalence of non-medical use of prescription pain medications by 3.5% (92,000 Coloradans) by 2016.
The challenge for Colorado is to execute a comprehensive and coordinated statewide strategy that simultaneously restricts access to prescription drugs for illicit use while ensuring access for those who legitimately need them. The first step was the development of a strategic plan titled The Colorado Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse, which was the result of a year-long process that engaged national experts and over 200 stakeholders statewide to address the disturbing trend of abuse in Colorado. This coordinated approach focuses on the following areas: provider education, the prescription drug monitoring program, safe disposal, data and surveillance, public education and treatment.
The next step was to form a consortium to coordinate and track the efforts. Comprised of state agencies, universities, medical professionals, federal and state agencies, and task forces, the Colorado Consortium to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse was launched in September 2013 and is housed at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. The Consortium has already begun work developing and applying the following recommendations.
- Change the state board policies for all DORA-licensed prescribers to include pain management guidelines
- Improve usability and appropriate accessibility of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) system through the use of information technology and increased stakeholder access
- Expand take-back program in law enforcement agencies and develop permanent drop-off sites
- Develop social marketing campaigns that target general public and youths/young adults and overcomes existing obstacles and misperceptions
- Monitor trends and standardize data collection tools across agencies
“It’s not just someone else’s problem. It’s our problem and we have an opportunity to change the trajectory of this serious public health issue,” says faculty member Robert Valuck, coordinating center director for the consortium. For more information on this issue, read the accompanying opinion piece titled The Other Drug Problem: Right in Our Own Medicine Cabinets that ran in the Dec. 25 Denver Post.