Overdose deaths jump with epidemic abuse in Colorado
Colorado ranked second-worst in the nation when it comes to abuse of prescription medication, with more than 255,000 abusers at last count, state officials said.
These addicts and abusers contributed to the quadrupling of the state’s overdose death rate between 2000 and 2011, according to the September 2013 “Colorado Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse.” Between 200 and 500 Coloradans die from such overdoses each year, officials said.
The high numbers are being driven by an escalating misuse of opioid analgesics, like codeine, morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Robert Valuck, an expert on prescription drug abuse, was selected to lead the state’s effort to reduce abuse of opiates and other prescribed medications. He arrives in Grand Junction today to recruit local doctors in the battle.
“I think doctors generally know about this problem, but even people in the know don’t know just how bad it is,” Valuck said.
The director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse, Valuck will address the Mesa County Medical Society tonight at the Bookcliff Country Club starting at 6:30 p.m.
“The state ranked second in 2011 in terms of self-reported, non-medical use of opioids among youngsters 12 to 25,” Valuck said. “This is what people admit.”
The problem is probably much larger, he said.
“One of the top three leading causes of injury-related death in the country right now is opioid overdose,” he said.
There were about 27,000 unintentional drug overdose deaths across the United States in 2007, or one every 19 minutes, according to the CDC.
Since 2003, more overdose deaths have involved opioid analgesics than heroin and cocaine combined, the CDC reports.
In addition, for every unintentional overdose death related to an opioid analgesic, nine people are admitted for substance abuse treatment, 35 visit emergency departments, 161 report drug abuse or dependence, and 461 report non-medical uses of opioid analgesics, the CDC said.
Prescription drug abuse costs the state dearly in terms of lost productivity, court proceedings, addiction treatment and complications, Valuck said.
Implementing strategies that target people at greatest risk requires strong coordination at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, and requires the involvement of parents, youth influencers, health care professionals, and policy makers, Valuck said.
Coordinated through the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy, the consortium creates an interagency framework that helps professional organizations and state agencies work together to implement a one-year strategic plan focusing on six issues:
■ The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
■ Prescriber and provider education
■ Safe disposal
■ Public awareness
■ Data analysis
Gov. John Hickenlooper pledged as part of the Colorado plan to reduce the non-medical use of prescription pain medications in the state by 92,000 people by 2016.
Valuck will provide some details about the state’s plan for changing medical board rules for all licensed prescribers, which could require more aggressive implementation of pain management guidelines in their practices.
Under current law, Colorado prescribers and pharmacies must disclose to patients who are receiving a controlled substance prescription information that is loaded into a database called the Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which is maintained by the state.
The plan calls on the state to educate health care providers who prescribe controlled substances about the importance of using the state’s Electronic Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in their practice.
The state also wants to improve the existing drug monitoring protocols and promote them as an important public health tool.
Expanding take-back programs by law enforcement agencies and developing permanent drop-off sites for expired medications is also a top priority, Valuck said.