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A Message From the Coordinator
April, 2011
Balancing Community Safety with Appropriate Pain Treatment  
It’s impossible to pick up a newspaper or magazine or to turn on the television without hearing about prescription drug abuse that is currently happening in the United States.  Recently, President Obama issued a national report with a strategy to respond to and to minimize abuse of prescription drugs. This report is titled, “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis.”
There is significant reason to be alarmed.  According to the Centers for Disease Control Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, “Unintentional drug overdose is a growing epidemic in the US and is now the leading cause of injury death in 17 states.”
A 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found “that nearly one-third of people aged 12 and over who used drugs for the first time in 2009 began by using a prescription drug nonmedically.  The same survey found that over 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives, while approximately 5 percent got them from a drug dealer or from the internet.”  The action plan outlined in “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis" mainly targets prescription opioid abuse.  This is because more and more deaths—that previously would have been usually attributed to using heroin—are now caused from misusing prescription painkillers.  
The President’s report identifies a hallmark solution for preventing prescription drug abuse: the education of patients and healthcare providers.  The first statement in the mission of the Oregon Pain Management Commission (OPMC) is this goal: “to improve pain management in the state of Oregon through education.”  The OPMC acknowledges the growing problem of individuals misusing prescription drugs.  At the same time, the Commission recognizes that any policy development must balance reducing prescription drug abuse with the right to the legitimate use of prescription medications by patients with pain.  Adequate pain treatment must not be undermined.
If you use prescription drugs in the treatment of your pain, there are methods that you can employ to prevent your medications from being exploited in illegal or harmful ways.  While protecting yourself and others, you can help assure that you have the medications required to relieve your pain.  Many of the following tips may seem to be just “common sense.”  However, according to the American Pain Foundation: “more than 45% of 12- to-17-year-olds who abuse prescription pain relievers get them for free from a friend or relative.”
One of the most important things that you can do is to safeguard your medications.  Keep them out of the reach of children and pets.  If you have pain relief medications, keep them in a locked storage area or container so that no one—including strangers or other household members—has access to these medications.  Take your medications and medical information in your carry-on luggage when you travel and, if possible, use a piece of luggage that you can lock; keep the key in your possession. 
Never share your prescription pain medications with anyone else, even if you know they have an injury or disease that creates pain.  Never use prescription pain medication that has been prescribed for someone else.  It is especially important to speak up and let your healthcare provider know if you are not receiving adequate pain control.  Both of the sharing medication circumstances described above could result in harm—or even death—and both situations could result in criminal prosecution.  The best choice in each of these situations is for the individual with pain to speak with their Primary Care Physician about treatment options that are appropriate for their specific pain issue. 
Don’t use a medication if the expiration date on the bottle indicates the drug use date has run out. For expired drugs and medications that you no longer use, dispose of them in the correct way.  Your pharmacist can advise you about the most appropriate way to dispose of a particular medication.  Many drugs should not be flushed down the sewer system and opioid medications must be disposed of in a way that prevents someone else from obtaining and using the drug for an illegitimate purpose.  The best way to dispose of unwanted medications is to return them to a community site that is sponsoring a “take back program" during the 2nd National Prescription Take Back Day on April 30, 2011.  
“Take back programs” are free and medications can be returned anonymously and with no questions asked.  If you don’t have access to a prescription “take back program,” remove your medication from its original container, mix it with an unpleasant material such as used coffee grounds or cat litter, seal it in a plastic bag, and then put the plastic bag in a disposable container with a lid (such as a used cottage cheese container or empty coffee can).  Finally mix this container in with the rest of your trash.
For other tips to assure that you use your medications safely and to prevent prescription drug abuse or misuse.
As your Pain Management Coordinator, I want you to have access to every pain treatment option that is appropriate for you.  At the same time, I also want you, your loved ones, and all in your community to be safe from the misuse of prescription drugs.
Kind Regards,
Kathy Kirk, RN