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A profile of National Institute on Drug Abuse Director, Dr. Nora Volkow, in The New York Times, says her mission is to ensure that the nation’s drug policy, which is increasingly focused on prescription drugs, is grounded in science.

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A report in the Archives of Internal Medicine urges doctors to be more cautious and conservative when it comes to prescribing drugs. An accompanying editorial notes that the problems associated with opioid medications for the treatment of chronic pain are rapidly growing.

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Researchers at the University of Washington found that fatal overdoses in the Seattle area, involving prescription-type opiates, declined for the first time in a decade, from 161 in 2009 to 130 in 2010, though they remain the most common drug type involved in overdose deaths.

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Primary care doctors screen only a small percentage of their patients prescribed long-term opioids, despite the risk of abuse, addiction and overdose, according to researchers in New York. Their study found lax screening even in patients who are at high risk for misuse of opioids, including those with a history of drug abuse or dependence.

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Hospitals and state licensing boards in Minnesota are teaming up to try to cut down on drug thefts in hospitals and nursing homes. A coalition organized by the Minnesota Hospital Association and state Health Department is trying to close loopholes in drug-handling procedures in order to make it more difficult to steal drugs.

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Prices for prescription painkillers sold illegally are sky-high, according to data from federal law enforcement agencies. These prices are creating a fast-growing street market for prescription painkillers.

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Prison officials throughout the country are finding that Suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, is being smuggled in through ingenious means, including greeting cards, children’s artwork and under stamps.

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The skyrocketing growth in the number of Americans addicted to prescription drugs is due to easy accessibility and the diminished perception of risk, the Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy told a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

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Stimulant drugs designed to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are not as likely as prescription painkillers to be diverted for non-medical purposes, a survey of 10,000 adults, ages 18 to 49, finds. Almost 25 percent of those surveyed said they had used prescription opioids for non-medical purposes, compared with about 8 percent who said they used stimulant medications for non-medical reasons.

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Georgia has become the latest state to approve a prescription monitoring program designed to help stop the abuse of opioid painkillers.

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