Prescription drug misuse is prevalent in the United States, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that approximately 52 million people nationwide over the age of 12 have abused prescription drugs at some point in their lifetimes. In NIDA’s 2014 Monitoring the Future Study, 13.9 percent of high school seniors reported having abused prescription drugs in the past year alone. A 2012 study by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids exposed that most adolescents and teenagers have the false belief that prescription drug abuse is less dangerous than the use of illicit street drugs. In an effort to curb prescription drug abuse and addiction among teens and adults alike, statewide prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) have been implemented in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.
PDMPs are electronic databases that keep track of the prescription drugs prescribed and dispensed within each state. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) does not have jurisdiction over these programs, as they are regulated by administrative and/or law enforcement agencies specific to the state. The database contents are shared with those deemed eligible by each state and typically include coroners, medical examiners, health insurance programs, mental health professions, medical personnel and probation officers. These contents are constantly updated by both the physicians who prescribe drugs and the pharmacies that dispense them.
The tenets of these PDMPs examine the purpose behind their implementation. These include “[to] support access to legitimate medical use of controlled substances, identify and deter or prevent drug abuse and diversion [and to] facilitate and encourage the… intervention with and treatment of persons addicted to prescription drugs.” They aim to “inform public health initiatives through [the] outlining of use and abuse trends and [to] educate individuals about PDMPs and the use, abuse and diversion of and addiction to prescription drugs.”
California passed PDMP legislation in 1939, becoming the first state with a drug monitoring program in the country. It has evolved over the years, switching to its current electronic database in the early 1990s. The California PDMP includes the statewide Controlled Substances Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), which was reworked and recently re-launched on July 1, 2015. Supported by the Department of Justice and Department of Consumer Affairs, the California PDMP and CURES aim to decrease the rates of prescription drug abuse and overdose statewide. The statewide Prevention Status Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2013 reported that approximately 5 percent of the population in the state had abused prescription pain relievers within the previous year alone.
Since each state is responsible for its own PDMP regulations, coverage varies. One state’s PDMP includes the monitoring of only schedule II controlled substances, whereas 15 states, including California, cover schedule II through schedule IV classifications. The District of Columbia and 34 states maintain PDMPs that include drugs classified as schedule II through schedule V. Schedule II controlled substances are federally regulated and classified by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) as holding a high potential for abuse and severe dependence, and include morphine, opium and methamphetamine. The potential for abuse decreases in severity until schedule V controlled substances, which are deemed as having a relatively low potential for abuse.
The hope with the continued implementation of PDMPs and the relatively new technological advances that have aided these efforts is that rates of prescription drug abuse among teens and adults will decrease. A 2014 study entitled, “What we know, and don’t know, about the impact of state policy and systems-level interventions on prescription drug overdose,” examines the effects of these programs on overdose rates within each state. However, researchers determined that the results were inconclusive and that progress since the inclusion of electronic databases must be researched more thoroughly to determine effectiveness.
According to a 2013 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), adolescents and teenagers ages 12 to 17 are more likely to abuse prescription drugs than heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and meth combined. If you or your child is struggling with prescription drug abuse, help is available. Sovereign Health of Rancho San Diego is a facility that specializes in treating adolescents and teens struggling with substance abuse, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis. Call 866-615-7266 to speak with a professional today.
Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer