Attorney General Rob McKenna visited yesterday to plug his latest cause, preventing prescription drug abuse and overdoses. He cited some pretty interesting statistics:
&bull Prescription drug overdoses are killing far more people in Washington state than heroin, cocaine and meth combined.
&bull Methadone is the biggest culprit, followed by Oxycodone and Hydrocodone (the opiate in Vicodin).
&bull In 2005-06, Washington ranked 6th in the nation for the percentage of people 12 and older who misused prescription pain relievers.
&bull The state’s medical director says that the increased daily doses being prescribed by doctors are not associated with improved outcomes and are most likely leading to increased tolerance, which can lead people to overdose.
McKenna’s got several public education campaigns going, but is frustrated by the Drug Enforcement Agency’s insistence that pharmacies can’t accept narcotics and other controlled substances back from patients who didn’t use their entire prescription. (The old advice – to flush the pills – no longer applies; pharmaceuticals are beginning to pollute the water supply).
The federal policy makes no sense. We trust pharmacists enough to dispense narcotics – why can’t they also accept returns? Up in Clallam County, the sheriff has found a way around the rule by deputizing pharmacists.