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WASHINGTON—As part of the National Governors Association’s (NGA) ongoing effort to help states reduce prescription drug abuse, findings from the Prescription Drug Abuse Reduction Policy Academy were the focus of the Health and Human Services Committee session at NGA’s 2014 Winter Meeting.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States and the second most common type of drug abuse (following marijuana use among 12- to 17-year-olds).

NGA Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley have led the Prescription Drug Abuse Project since September 2012. Throughout the yearlong initiative, seven states—Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Kentucky, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia—have worked to develop comprehensive, coordinated plans to combat the public health and safety crisis.

During the Winter Meeting session, “Battling an Epidemic: State Efforts to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse,” governors released an issue brief detailing lessons learned from the policy academy. Findings from Reducing Prescription Drug Abuse: Lessons Learned from an NGA Policy Academy include:

  • Leadership matters;
  • Prescribing behavior needs to change;
  • Disposal options should be convenient and cost-effective;
  • Prescription drug monitoring programs are underused;
  • Public education is critical;
  • Treatment is essential; and
  • Data, metrics and evaluation must drive policy and practice.

“The abuse of prescription drugs continues to be seen in communities across the nation,” said Gov. Hickenlooper. “This initiative helped states develop effective strategies to help decrease the number of individuals who are misusing or abusing prescription drugs and the resulting number of people who are harmed or die.”

“When discussing efforts to fight this problem, we must remember to differentiate between those who are abusing prescription drugs and those who legitimately need these medications,” Gov. Bentley said. “It has been an honor to co-lead this effort as states look for ways to reduce prescription drug abuse.”

Because this issue remains a top priority for governors, NGA announced a second round of the initiative to be led by Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.

For more information about the Prescription Drug Abuse Project, visit http://www.nga.org/cms/Rx.