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Five more laws to help stop Maine’s prescription drug epidemic

October 14, 2013
Bangor Daily News

The rapid rise of the sale of prescription drugs between 1999 and 2010 has resulted in a corresponding problem: death. Sales of prescription painkillers have quadrupled nationally in that time, and so have overdoses. Now more people die from prescription drug overdoses than those from heroin and cocaine combined.

In Maine, the rate of death increased fivefold between 1990 and 2010. There were 2.2 overdose deaths per 100,000 people in 1990 and 12.4 per 100,000 people in 2005. It dipped to 10.4 in 2010.

Maine has taken steps to combat the problem, but there is more to do. Abuse causes not just heartache for Maine families but major economic losses for Maine communities.

On Oct. 7, the Trust for America’s Health released a reportfunded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with strategies for how to combat prescription drug abuse. Researchers identified 10 promising state policies and then looked to see whether states have implemented them.

Only two states, Vermont and New Mexico, have embraced all 10. The largest number of states — 11 — have implemented eight. Maine ranks in the bottom 17 states; it’s one of eight to have instituted only five of the strategies. Lawmakers should wholeheartedly consider the remaining ideas if they wish to halt what has reached the scientific definition of an epidemic.

 

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