LA County calls for action to tackle prescription drug abuse

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The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued a set of recommendations Monday to address the persistent problem of prescription drug abuse. The report called for  steps to improve tracking and monitoring, drug disposal, and training and education of health care professionals.

In spite of their central role, "most health care providers receive very little training and education on substance use disorders and addiction, and are poorly equipped" to fight prescription abuse, the report said.

The Health Department argued that training should focus on several areas. It said medical professionals must be taught how to screen patients for the risk of prescription drug abuse, and how to monitor drug-related behavior.

The report said clinicians need to be armed with safe prescribing practices for opioids, evidence-based pain management guidelines, and an understanding of the relationship between pain and addiction.

The recommendations are "based on the documented accomplishments from other jurisdictions that have taken steps to reduce and prevent prescription drug abuse," said John Viernes, Jr., Director of Substance Abuse Prevention and Control.

"This will not be a small job. We will need parents, patients, educators, health care providers, and manufacturers to participate in the process in order to reduce prescription drug abuse," he said.

Drug overdose is the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in Los Angeles County, according to the Health Department. 

Some key data from the report, which is published in its entirety below.

  • From 2000 to 2009, toxicology reports found 8,265 drug- related deaths,  and approximately 60 percent of those deaths involved commonly abused prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
  • Publicly funded substance abuse facilities reported treatment admissions increased by 50 percent from 2005 to 2010 for abuse of prescribed opioid pain relievers.
  • In L.A. County, 37 percent of students in continuation, community day or alternative high schools reported abusing prescription painkillers at least once.

This story was updated and corrected at 5:31 p.m. Jan. 14, 2013. Originally, it erroneously stated that drug overdose "has become the third leading cause of deaths" in L.A. County.

Prescription Drug Abuse in Los Angeles County: Background and Recommendations for Action by

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