The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is targeting the nation's prescription drug abuse epidemic through a new IT initiative, a move that Novus Medical Detox director Kirk Burness cites as an important step toward stemming the rising trend of overdose-related deaths. Burness asserts that restricting access to prescription painkillers and promoting safe, effective detox programs can help even high-dosage drug abusers overcome their addictions.
Launched by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology, the government initiative is designed to expand and improve access to prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). It will begin with pilot programs in Ohio and Indiana. "We hope these innovative pilots will help usher in an era of 'PDMPs 2.0' across the nation to improve real-time data sharing, increase interoperability of data among states and expand the number of people using these important tools," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), unintentional poisoning caused more deaths than motor vehicle crashes among U.S. adults aged 25 to 64, making it the leading cause of accidental death for that age group. CDC reports also reveal that approximately 100 people die from drug overdoses every day within the United States, with the majority of those deaths being due to prescription drugs; furthermore, the agency found that prescription painkillers killed more people than heroin and cocaine combined.
"The CDC's prescription drug statistics are truly alarming, and illustrate the extent of the problem within the United States. I applaud the government for stepping up its prescription monitoring programs, and hope that these efforts will help reverse the epidemic," said Burness. "Limiting access to prescription medications is a critical step; however, it's equally important for those who abuse prescription painkillers to be able to safely detox from their addiction without becoming reliant on another drug."
Burness cautions against rapid detox programs and pain clinics, which often prescribe psychotropic or other drugs to address the side effects of rapid withdrawal; he notes that this practice can result in the patient becoming dependent on another type of drug.