Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Seeking Answers to Prescription Drug Abuse

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Seeking Answers to Prescription Drug Abuse

Article excerpt

Declaring that prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions, New Jersey's top law enforcement officials convened a summit on Tuesday to focus attention on the problem and efforts to combat it.

"Every 19 minutes now, somebody is dying from a painkiller overdose, which is making these controlled medications the fastest- growing drug problem in our nation," said Brian Crowell, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in New Jersey.

The first New Jersey Prescription Drug Summit drew about 250 people - including school counselors, nurses, doctors, police officers, prosecutors and substance-abuse professionals - to a daylong conference in Edison.

"The idea that one segment of us, those of us in law enforcement, or in education, or in drug treatment ... can solve this problem by ourselves is nuts," said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. "The only way we can address this problem successfully ... is to make sure that we are all working together."

Fishman described prescription drug abuse as one of the biggest dangers confronting America. The statistics, he said, are stunning.

"More people abuse prescription drugs than the number of people who use cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and inhalants combined," Fishman said.

"On average, over 7 million people over the age of 12 used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons last month," he added.

Visits to hospital emergency rooms by people who misuse prescription drugs, about 1 million a year, have doubled over the past five years and exceed the number of emergency room visits by people who have used illegal drugs, he said.

"More than 20,000 people a year die from unintentional prescription overdoses," more than perish in car crashes, he said.

The health care, workforce and criminal justice costs of prescription drug abuse are estimated at more than $50 billion a year, Fishman said.

And the kicker, he said, is that the vast majority of prescription abusers - 71 percent - got the drug from a friend or relative, sometimes from their home medicine cabinet. Seventeen percent got the drug from a doctor. …

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