The Partnership at Drugfree.org is partnering with Mallinckrodt, the pharmaceutical business of Covidien, Cardinal Heath and PhRMA, for a week-long public awareness campaign.
Entitled "Wake Up to Medicine Abuse," the initiative will bring the public and private sectors together in a national education effort and call-to-action to curb the abuse of medicine,
"Wake Up to Medicine Abuse Week" will take place Sept. 23-29 and will both encourage and help parents and the public at large to take action: First, by talking with the kids in their lives about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter medicines, and second, by safeguarding and properly disposing of unused medications.
The effort includes a destination Web site where visitors can learn more about the problem and what they can do, new public service announcements, and public outreach, education and events.
"Up to this point, national efforts to prevent the intentional abuse of medicine have been inadequate, given the scope of the problem and human toll this abuse behavior is taking,” said Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org, in a release.
The campaign calls on all public and private sector organizations with a stake in the problem -- federal agencies, state and local governments, distributors, drug stores, medical societies and both the branded and generic pharmaceutical industry -- to join together and work to reduce this behavior, Pasierb said.
The consequences of medicine abuse, including emergency room episodes, treatment admissions and overdose deaths, have increased dramatically, and it is a behavior that is starting in adolescence. Every day, 2,500 teens use a prescription drug to get high for the first time, and the death toll from prescription painkillers alone has tripled in the past decade.
Due to these high levels of prescription drug abuse, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death in about a third of the states, outpacing fatalities from car accidents. If the human toll were not enough, all of this is an enormous drain on the nation's economy, with the health care costs related to this behavior estimated at more than $72 billion annually.
"This intensive week is an important step to convey the message that abusing medicine can be just as addictive and just as deadly as abusing illicit street drugs,” Pasierb said. “We will call on parents to talk with their kids about this dangerous behavior by using research-based information and tips we will provide, and encourage everyone to both secure current medicines and properly dispose of old medications. Without a major public mobilization effort that can eventually be sustained year-round, we are not going to be able to move the needle on this deadly epidemic."