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Prescription drug abuse now more deadly than heroin, cocaine combined

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“We’ve been struck how quickly this probably has emerged … it warrants a strong public health response,” says Andrea Gielen, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy in Baltimore, who served as a consultant for the report. “We’re concerned about preventing misuse or overdoses, which are very real and heart-wrenching problems that have been skyrocketing recently.”

Prescription drug overdose rates are highest in the poorest regions of the US: Appalachia and the Southwest. West Virginia has the highest rate, at 28.9 deaths per every 100,000 people – a 605 percent increase since 1999. Following close behind are New Mexico, Kentucky, Nevada, and Oklahoma.

Moreover, states are not yet fully utilizing PDMPs and vary in requirements for reporting and determining who can access and report data, Mr. Levy adds. Forty-nine states have a PMDP, but only 16 require health-care providers to use it. (Missouri is the only state without a PDMP.)

For the program to work in preventing overdose deaths, he adds, it “needs to be modernized and integrated with public health systems. If we don’t integrate [it], we will lose a huge opportunity.”

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