Federal anti-drug agency releases new web-based program to combat prescription painkiller abuse

Our post yesterday on a new study that finds few physicians are following guidelines when prescribing prescription painkillers for injured workers prompted an e-mail today from the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy about its new program to address the problem.

The agency unveiled a new web-based program this week aimed at helping doctors more safely and effectively prescribe these powerful medications, which include such drugs as Oxycontin and Vicodin.

The new training materials, which include video vignettes of doctor patient conversations about opioid pain medications, are part of an initiative created to help physicians, medical interns and other clinicians understand and address the complex problem of prescription drug abuse, the agency said.

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According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released last week, the number of young adults (people aged 18 to 25) who used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past month declined 15 percent—from 2 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011.However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still classifies prescription drug abuse as an epidemic, with roughly 100 people dying each day from drug overdoses, driven primarily by prescription drugs.

The study released Tuesday by the Cambridge-based Workers Compensation Research Institute found that workers prescribed prescription painkillers infrequently received recommended drug test monitoring and psychological evaluation, which can help prevent misuse.

Nearly one in 12 injured workers who are prescribed narcotics are still using them three to six months later, the study found.