Prescription drug abuse and overdose remains a critical public health issue. Between 2002 and 2012, the number of Americans taking a medication stronger than morphine increased from 17 percent to 37 percent, while the rate of drug poisonings resulting in death from opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled.

Since 2012, the NGA Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) has worked on prescription drug abuse, hosting two yearlong policy academies. Co-chaired by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the first prescription drug policy academy included five other states: Arkansas, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia. The second round was co-chaired by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin and included four other states: Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The NGA Center continues to work with teams of senior-level policymakers to support implementation of comprehensive action plans for addressing prescription drug abuse. Team members include governors’ health and criminal justice policy advisors, state health officials, physician groups and other health care providers, attorneys general, legislators and state substance abuse directors. State strategies have focused on prescribing practices; disposal options; prescription drug monitoring programs; public and provider education; treatment strategies; and data, metrics, and evaluation.