Local Physicians Battle Opioid Abuse
They are supposed to help a person get better, but too often they are being abused, so health officials in Central Minnesota want to put an end to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse.
The Stearns Benton Medical Society is focusing this year on medication safety — and specifically prescription drug addiction and abuse — for its public health campaign.
"Many in our community have lost loved ones to death or addiction due to prescription drug abuse," said Dr. Patrick Zook, president of the Stearns Benton Medical Society.
Area health professionals met at St. Cloud State University to attempt to create a community policy or establish guidelines for doctors and other providers who prescribe and refill medications.
"This topic has certainly garnered the interest of our medical providers — more than any of our previous issues," said Zook, a longtime family physician.
Emergency and urgent care staff, clinic doctors, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, counselors and others are invited to discuss the topic at the society's meetings.
"It will help us improve the quality of what we do with controlled substances like opiates but also tranquilizers like Valium and sleeping pills," Zook said.
Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans ages 14 and older after marijuana and alcohol, according to the National Institutes of Health.
"A big part of this is dealing with the 'opioid epidemic,' which refers to the now-rampant problem of increasing prescription drug addiction and abuse ... not only locally but nationally, too," he said.
"The government says 15,000 people a year in the U.S. die of prescription drug overdoses; that's more than heroin and meth combined ... with 80 percent of the deaths taking the drugs in a nonprescription way."
Last year, the Stearns Benton Medical Society focused on whooping cough vaccination in its first public health campaign, which included posters, information sheets, events and public education.
"Medication safety is a huge problem," Zook said. "For every one person that dies, there are 30 or more people who are seriously impaired ... So it's very pervasive."
For more information about the Stearns Benton Medical Society and its public health campaign, call 252-8550 or visit http://pzookblog.com.
Follow Frank Lee on Twitter @fclgannett.
Preventing prescription drug abuse
Commonly abused classes of prescription drugs include opioids for pain, central nervous system depressants for anxiety and sleep disorders, and stimulants for ADHD and narcolepsy.
Here are some tips to prevent prescription drug abuse:
• Ask your doctor or pharmacist about your medication, especially if you are unsure about its effects.
• Keep your doctor informed about all medications you are taking, including over-the-counter medications.
• Read the information your pharmacist provides before starting to take medications.
• Take your medication(s) as prescribed.
• Keep all prescription medications secured at all times and properly dispose of any unused medications.
Source: National Institutes of Health
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