Prescription Drug Abuse

The State of Georgia is faced with a new crisis: the deadly surge of prescription (Rx) drug abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled this emerging form of drug abuse a “national epidemic,” and reports that Rx drugs are the cause of more deaths by overdose than “street drugs” such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. A recent CDC study found that more Americans died from Rx drugs than motor vehicle accidents, marking the first time drug-related deaths have outnumbered motor vehicle-related deaths since 1979, when the government started tracking drug-related deaths.

The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 7 million people regularly use Rx drugs for non-medical purposes. Unfortunately, Georgia has not been immune to this growing problem. According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, in 2012 prescription drugs played a role in 592 deaths in the 152 of 159 counties in Georgia for which it performs autopsies.

What is extremely troubling is that the abuse is particularly prevalent among teens. In fact, the CDC reports that one in five high school students school has taken a Rx drug without a doctor’s prescription. Even more alarming, many teens are getting these drugs from friends and family.

To address the growing problem, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation to combat illegal pill mills. Governor Deal signed the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act on May 2, 2013, which will give the Georgia Composite Medical Board the authority to license and regulate pain management clinics. This will allow us to identify and curb narcotics traffickers who use pain management clinics as fronts for pill mills without getting in the way of doctors who offer legitimate pain management to their patients. It will also give Georgia law enforcement the necessary tools to tackle the problem.