Sean Clarkin, our Director of Strategy and Program Management, testified recently on our behalf, about the abuse of prescription (Rx) drugs, at a hearing held by the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.
Subcommittee Chair Representative Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) convened the hearing and called four panels of expert witnesses, including two parents who work closely with us – Phil Bauer of our Parent Advisory Board and April Rovero, one of our new Parent Ambassadors. Representative Bono Mack has been a dedicated champion in helping prevent Rx drug abuse, and the abuse of prescription opioids such as Oxycontin. Dr. Amelia Arria, of our Science Advisory Board, also testified on the abuse of prescription stimulants by college students.
In addition, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Director Gil Kerlikowske, DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, Governors Steve Beshear and Rick Scott of Kentucky and Florida, respectively, and General Art Dean of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America testified, as did representatives of the pharmaceutical industry
The data presented outlined the breadth and severity of the abuse problem. In Florida, where “pill mills” dispense large quantities of prescription opioids, seven people die every day of prescription drug overdoses, and there are now 17 states in which Rx drug overdoses account for more accidental deaths than car crashes.
Added Clarkin: “What the Subcommittee heard most from witnesses was that this is a behavioral problem more than it is a substance-specific problem. The tragic stories related by the parents who testified highlighted Oxycontin as a cause in the loss of their children’s lives, but also pointed to the reality that, in many cases, Rx drug abuse is only part of an individual’s polydrug behavior, including alcohol use. This reality leads to some of the solutions that we recommended in our testimony – more education of prescribers (including dentists, who are the most frequent prescribers of opioids to teens), pharmacists and the general public, especially parents. All stakeholders have important roles to play in prevention.
“The good news is that the federal government is now focused on addressing this important health issue. The U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral and Dr. Regina Benjamin, convened an expert panel on the abuse of Rx drugs to inform a possible ‘call to action’ from her office and the ONDCP just released its strategy to help reduce the abuse of prescription drugs. These are all critical steps towards developing a comprehensive and effective effort to roll back the wave of addiction, injury and death that abuse of Rx drugs continues to generate,” he said.