Addressing prescription drug abuse and access issues — every day

Two recent developments demonstrate the complexity of the prescription drug abuse issue. Perhaps ironically, August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, while the month of September is National Pain Awareness Month.

Timed with the recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy announced the release of an Opioid Overdose Toolkit. This resource is designed to help raise awareness of overdose prevention, treatment and recovery for first responders, prescribers and patients.

Meanwhile, as part of National Pain Awareness Month, organizations like the U.S. Pain Foundation are raising awareness of the challenges faced by millions of Americans each day, including their need for medications to help them confront severe pain and illness. The Foundation created a special “30-Day Challenge” to help redefine perceptions surrounding pain issues.

These issues deserve the focus that they receive during this commemorative day and month, and every day. And it also makes sense to think about these issues from a more unified perspective. In fact, NACDS has made it a priority to simultaneously address prescription drug abuse and legitimate prescription drug access. As we say, there needs to be a 100-percent commitment to patient care and a zero tolerance for drug abuse and diversion.

Opinion research conducted for NACDS this past August found that nearly eight-out-of-ten respondents agreed with NACDS’ positioning on this issue, as reflected in this statement: “Pharmacies have a dual role when it comes to battling prescription drug abuse. They have to be part of the solution by working with law enforcement officials to stop prescription drug abuse, but they also have to maintain their responsibilities to patients by making sure they receive the medications they legitimately need.”

The necessity of this dual focus also is reflected in legislation backed by NACDS that would create a commission of federal and state governmental agencies, law enforcement and healthcare professionals to collaborate on solutions for drug abuse and drug access alike. As NACDS noted in an op-ed column in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, the “Combating Prescription Drug Abuse Act” (S. 1277) by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) deserves support and action.

The existence of a special day to raise awareness of overdoses and the existence of a special month to raise awareness of chronic pain demonstrates the complexity of these issues. Hopefully, this dialogue also will demonstrate the need to address drug abuse and legitimate medication access in a coordinated fashion that benefits all Americans.

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