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The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

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DHMH Press Releases : rise in prescription drug abuse



Department of Health & Mental Hygiene News Release

BALTIMORE, MD (March 16, 2011) - The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) released data today showing that prescription drug abuse in Maryland is rising at an alarming rate. To address this serious public health problem, the O’Malley/Brown Administration is proposing to create a Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). This program would identify individuals receiving inappropriate prescription medications from multiple sources – helping doctors and preventing abuse of the system, diversion, and harm.

Data released today show:

  • A 106 percent increase in treatment admissions in Maryland related to abuse of prescription opiates from 2007 to 2010
  • A 250 percent increase in Maryland poison control calls related to oxycodone from 2007 to 2010
  • 55 percent of all intoxication deaths in Maryland involved a prescription opiate in 2010

“Prescription drug abuse affects every community in Maryland,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. “Maryland needs the tools that 43 other states already have to reduce this serious threat.”

Maryland is one of just seven states still without a PDMD.

“We know prescription drug abuse is a major public health problem. Providing solid information to doctors and patients is a proven strategy to reverse this trend, to get people into drug treatment and stop the needless overdoses and addiction,” said Frances Phillips, DHMH Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services. "This program will bring real help to countless Maryland families struggling with prescription drug abuse and misuse.”

"This important legislation will stop drug dealers who exploit the current system in order to accumulate prescription drugs for illicit street sales in our communities," Major Vernon J. Conaway, Commander of the Maryland State Police Drug Investigative Command said. "A prescription drug monitoring program will assist law enforcement investigations of those who are profiting from this expanding area of criminal enterprise in Maryland."

SB 883/HB 1229 would establish a comprehensive program to address the problem of prescription drug abuse and diversion, including:

  • Monitoring: Tracking the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances to help doctors identify patients who are “doctor-shopping.”
  • Education: Providing information and analysis to physicians, pharmacists, patients, regulatory and licensing agencies, law enforcement and the public on the dangers of prescription drug misuse.
  • Treatment: Identifying individuals with substance abuse and addiction problems and staging medical and public health interventions to ensure access to treatment and/or proper clinical care.
  • Enforcement: Judicious use of criminal, civil and regulatory enforcement powers to control illegal drug diversion and protect the public.
  • Disposal: Ensuring the proper disposal or destruction of unused, expired or confiscated prescription drugs.