Make prescription drug abuse health priority

Prescription drug abuse is our fastest-growing drug problem and has now surpassed automobile accidents as the leading cause of accidental death in the nation, 30,000 Americans will die of painkiller overdoses this year - more than from heroin and cocaine combined. Abuse of prescription drugs costs insurers up to $72.5 billion annually in direct health care costs.

A potentially disastrous deadline is approaching - the expiration of patents on the original formulations of highly addictive prescription pain pills like OxyContin. In early 2013, generic versions are slated to come to market in a low-cost, crushable formula. The impact would not only be disastrous for law enforcement and health care, but would also jeopardize the costly, painstaking gains already made in our fight against this scourge.

A new federal initiative - Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) - seeks to identify, intervene, and treat addiction through integration of alcohol and drug screening into the standard delivery of health care. SBIRT equips the medical community to intervene early with at-risk substance users, thereby getting persons in need onto the road to recovery sooner.

I am living proof early intervention can work.

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