Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and the Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force teamed up to launch BitterPill.IN.gov. This website, armed with a toolkit of resources for Hoosiers, is part of a comprehensive statewide public awareness campaign targeting Indiana’s prescription drug abuse epidemic.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, 718 Hoosiers died from accidental drug overdoses in 2011, compared to 654 deaths the year before. More people abuse prescription drugs in the U.S. than cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens and inhalants combined, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“Statistics show that abuse and misuse among all age groups is a serious problem in Indiana and that’s a bitter pill for our state to swallow,” Zoeller said. “Whether you are seeking ideas on how to talk to your teenager about whether they are abusing prescription drugs, searching for help for yourself or a loved one or just want to know how to properly dispose of your unwanted medications, this new website serves as a one-stop shop. I believe consumers need to be armed with information and the right resources so we can try to put an end to this epidemic.”
In addition to the launch of the website, the public awareness campaign sets off a series of online, print, television and radio service announcements which will soon begin appearing across Indiana.
Chief Medical Officer at ISDH, Dr. Joan Duwve, serves with Zoeller as co-chair of the task force and said public awareness is a critical component to tackling this statewide problem.
“We have to recognize prescription drug abuse for the serious problem that it is,” said Duwve. “According to the 2011 Indiana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in five Hoosier high school students has used controlled substances without a prescription. Teens have easy access to most of these drugs because they are commonly prescribed and end up in the home medicine cabinet. What is perceived as a ‘safe’ high, because a doctor prescribed it, too often ends up being deadly.”
In addition to learning more about the efforts of Indiana Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force, Zoeller said the top five features of BitterPill.IN.gov include:
Knowing the dangers: Learn about the consequences of misuse and abuse of prescription drugs and what impact this epidemic has had on Indiana;
- Dealing with addiction: Familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse in all ages. Access talking points to use when speaking with family or friends when you suspect a problem, and obtain information about treatment resources and referrals;
- Proper prescription disposal: Learn how to dispose of your unwanted or expired medications in way that protects the environment and ensures they don’t wind up in the wrong hands;
- Clinical resources: Access information written by Hoosier physicians which can help ensure optimal treatment with regards to commonly misused and abuse medications; and
- Reporting illegal activities: Learn how to report illegal activities whether it involves a physician, friend or someone else you know.
Zoeller was also joined by St. Joseph County Health Officer, Dr. Thomas Felger, who shared in the state’s concern for the growing number of accidental deaths related to prescription drug overdoses.
“Opiate misuse is a significant problem in St. Joseph County,” said Felger. “For the last four years we have seen our accidental drug overdose deaths exceed our Motor Vehicle Accident deaths. For 2013, the average age of these 21 unnecessary deaths is 35 years old.”
Consumers can receive updates on the efforts to fight prescription drug abuse by “liking” Zoeller’s Facebook page or by following him on Twitter @INATTYGENERAL.
In 2012, Zoeller launched the task force made up of state legislators, law enforcement, members of the medical community, health officials, pharmacists, state and local agencies and education providers. The goal of the task force is to significantly reduce the abuse of controlled prescription drugs and to decrease the number of deaths associated with these drugs in Indiana.
The task force made recommendations to the state Legislature for new rules, regulations and state statutes. Stemming from its recommendations is a new law which requires an owner of a clinic that prescribes, dispenses or administers controlled substances to obtain an Indiana Controlled Substance Registration (CSR) for each facility they own, if they don’t otherwise hold a CSR.
The new law also calls on the Medical Licensing Board, through new rule making procedures, to allow the Attorney General’s office to move more quickly in taking enforcement action against practitioners who overprescribe and obtain records for its investigation. Zoeller said his office and other stakeholders are being careful to make recommendations that include appropriate due process protections that balance consideration of physicians’ right and business operation needs, while still providing effective tools that will enhance the ability to protect the public.
Since January 2012, Zoeller’s office has taken action against more than 15 doctors for prescribing addictive painkillers outside of what is considered medically appropriate.