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Maine Tops Nation in Treatment Admissions for Prescription Painkillers

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New government data shows that Maine consistently outstripped other states over the past decade when measured by the number of residents seeking treatment for prescription painkillers, the Bangor Daily News reported Jan. 4. 

The report, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), reviewed national trends in admissions to treatment for substance abuse between 1998 and 2008.

In 1998, only 28 per 100,000 Maine residents sought treatment for non-heroin opiate addiction. By 2008, that ratio had jumped to 386 per 100,000 residents — well above the national average of 45 per 100,000. 

“At this point,” said Guy Cousins, who directs the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, “prescription drugs are nearly as readily available as alcohol in Maine homes.”

Cousins' office has conducted a multi-pronged campaign to address the problem; it educates doctors and other prescribers of the drugs, monitors and tracks prescriptions to eliminate “doctor-shopping” and over-prescription, and promotes the adoption of alternative pain management approaches, including methadone and the opiate replacement drug Suboxone.

The agency also works with law enforcement and community partners to hold drug takeback programs to reduce the number of prescription drugs diverted from patients to the black market.

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