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Friends of NIDA Hill Briefing Addresses Prescription Drug Abuse

by Kim Kooi | August 15, 2013

On July 10, 2013, the Friends of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) held their 19th Congressional Staff Briefing entitled “Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse: Applying Science to Solve a Community Epidemic.” This four hour event featured a panel of speakers that highlighted various facets of prescription drug abuse and addressed the complexities of addiction treatment.

The briefing began with a presentation from Phil Bauer, a father who lost his son, Mark, to addiction ten years ago and has since become a national advocate for prescription drug safety. Mark was an eighteen year old athlete only a few days from high school graduation when he died; through his story, Mr. Bauer reminded participants of the human toll of addiction as well as the need for improved awareness and education efforts.

Next, Nora Volkow, MD, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, discussed the biomedical aspects of addiction—specifically, the rewarding sensations associated with drug use and its impact on the brain. Dr. Volkow then addressed the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse and what can be done to prevent it, such as developing pain medications that are harder to abuse, making Naloxone easier to administer to patients experiencing an overdose, and educating health care providers about safe prescribing practices and managing pain patients who are at risk for addiction.

Lisa Marsch, PhD, the director of the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, spoke about her team’s work using targeted, mobile and web-based technology to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse. Her team has found that tailoring approaches to specific groups is essential for maximum impact. For example, a blog-type interface is being developed for high school students and a video game format is being piloted for younger children.

The briefing closed with a presentation from Amy Haskins, MA, SIT, a Public Health Educator and Sanitarian with the Jackson County (WV) Health Department and the Project Director of the Jackson County Anti-Drug Coalition. Ms. Haskins spoke about the efforts that Jackson County has taken to address their community’s alarming amount of adolescent overdose deaths – such as a multifaceted media campaign, classroom and community presentations, law enforcement training, prescription drug disposal days - and the success that they have had on decreasing drug usage and associated overdoses.

ASAM will raise the issue of ever-increasing deaths related to prescription drug abuse before Congress again during a federal briefing on September 30, 2013. This hearing, part of the outreach efforts of the Patient Advocacy Task Force, will focus on the need for increased access to treatment and to addiction medications in particular. Keep an eye out for a full report on the briefing in the next issue of ASAM Magazine.

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