Pasierb Submits Testimony on Prescription Drug Epidemic to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism

Steve Pasierb, our President and CEO, submitted testimony on Tuesday, May 23 to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, addressing the misuse and intentional abuse of prescription medications, how this poses a significant health threat and strategies on reducing this behavior.

Pasierb shared our organization’s extensive national research on teenage medicine abuse, and he addressed the attitudes, beliefs and motivations teens bring to substance abuse behavior. According to our 2010 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study sponsored by MetLife Foundation, teen abuse of Rx medicines continues to be an area of major concern, with abuse rates holding steady at levels that should be worrisome to parents. The data found one in four teens (25 percent) reported taking a prescription drug not prescribed for them by a doctor at least once in their lives, and more than one in five teens (23 percent) used a prescription pain reliever not prescribed for them by a doctor.

Pasierb addressed how prescription drugs are readily available to teens.  These drugs are in teens’ medicine cabinets and the medicine cabinets of friends, and very often they are available for free. Pasierb highlighted Not In My House, one of our web resources developed with support from Abbott, specifically designed to help parents address this issue.

He also spoke about how teens’ perception of the risks associated with abusing prescription drugs is relatively low. Our research shows that less than half of teens see “great risk” in trying prescription pain relievers such as Vicodin or Oxycontin that a doctor did not prescribe for them. Low perception of risk, coupled with easy availability, is a recipe for an ongoing problem.

“As we know, one of the most valuable allies in preventing teen drug use is parents. Unfortunately, they are generally ill equipped to deal with teens’ abuse of prescription drug use, a behavior that was probably not on their radar when they were teenagers,” said Pasierb. “Much more work needs to be done to motivate parents to discuss the risks of prescription drug abuse with their teens. Research from The Partnership at Drugfree.org has demonstrated that kids who learn a lot at home about the risks of abusing drugs are half as likely to use. Encouraging these conversations and ongoing parental monitoring is key to reducing teen Rx abuse.”

One of the most important reasons why we have not yet been able to reduce teen abuse of prescription medications is that our efforts as a nation have been inadequate, at least to date. Pasierb stated that there has simply not been sufficient public attention or resources devoted to this threat.

“While we are grateful for the efforts of our partner companies, if our nation is going to reduce teen abuse of prescription medication, we need to step up efforts dramatically,” Pasierb said. He stressed the need to do the following:

1. Support a major, independent and paid media campaign alerting consumers to the risks of abusing medicine as well as the importance of safeguarding and safe disposal of medicine. This effort might include tagging the pharmaceutical industry’s large inventory of direct-to-consumer advertising and pointing viewers toward an objective and comprehensive online prevention resource;

2. Educate and enlist prescribers, pharmacists and other health care professionals about addiction and pain management;

3. Coordinate outreach by employees of all the relevant stakeholder companies and other interested parties to increase awareness about Rx abuse and disposal at the local level;

4. Educate policymakers at the local, state and federal level about this problem so that we can promote policies that will help reduce both the supply of and demand for prescription drugs to abuse; and

5. Implement an evaluation tool that will measure and hold the program accountable.

The Partnership at Drugfree.org has laid important groundwork in this area, but there needs to be a major paid media and public relations campaign over the next five years in order to change the relevant attitudes and behavior of not only teens but also parents, policy makers and prescribers. Pasierb shared our organization’s continued support of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s prescription drug “Take Back” days — where they collected a total of more than 300 tons of pills from thousands of locations in all 50 states.

“Our efforts must be focused not only on raising awareness about the risks of taking medications without a doctor’s prescription, but it must also be a call to action to all adults to take responsibility for what is in their medicine cabinets and dispose of unneeded prescriptions in a timely manner,” Pasierb concluded. “We appreciate the time and attention that the Subcommittee is giving to raising awareness and looking for ways to reduce the abuse, misuse and diversion of prescription drugs in our country. The Partnership at Drugfree.org stands ready to work with the Subcommittee on this and other substance abuse matters.”

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