Prescription Drug Overdoses a Growing Public Health Problem

Sep 21, 2012, 11:00 AM

Deaths from prescription drug overdoses are an increasingly serious problem across the United States, according to the American Public Health Association’s Public Health Newswire, which reported on a related session at last week’s Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Annual Meeting.

Poisoning deaths—89 percent of which are due to drug overdoses—are now a more deadly public health issue than even motor vehicle collisions, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescription drug abuse is a growing factor—in 2011 there were more deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses than there were from both heroin and cocaine.

“This has become…something that should have the attention of every single public health official in the country,” said Terry Cline, commissioner with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, at the ASTHO meeting in Austin, Texas.

The National Governors Association (NGA) is hosting a year-long prescription drug abuse initiative to help combat the epidemic. Between now and April 2013, Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia will:

  • Participate in two, two-day policy academy meetings
  • Participate in an in-state policy workshop
  • Receive targeted technical assistance from NGA Center staff and a national faculty of experts
  • Participate in networking activities
  • Receive a $45,000 subgrant to support related activities

>>Read more coverage of the ASTHO meeting. 

>>Read the release from the National Governor’s Association.

>>Read the full prescription drug overdose update from APHA’s Public Health Newswire.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.