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NE Third Best for Drug Overdoses

There’s been a jump in deaths associated with prescription drugs and Nebraska hasn’t avoided the trend. With about double the number of drug overdose deaths from 1999, the numbers are going in the wrong direction. However, when compared to a list of states by number of drug-related fatalities, we rank only beneath South and North Dakota.

At 6.7 deaths per 100,000 residents (SD at 6.3; ND at 3.4) our rate is about a third that of the worst state, West Virginia, which reported 28.9 deaths per 100,000.

The numbers come from a report released this month, Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic, that totals data on all 50 states. Also given for each state was a scoring based on how many of ten recommendations to reduce prescription misuse a state has adopted. Nebraska scores a very poor 3 out of ten that part.

The three programs we have in place are:
* We have an active Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that is designed to catch over prescribing, either because of an error or when a patient intentionally visits multiple doctors for the same ailment. But we don’t mandate participation, which lowered our score.

* We have a “doctor shopping” law which mandates disclosure of previous drug treatment to avoid duplication.

* We have a “lock-in” program that assigns problem cases on Medicaid to specific pharmacies which can track all the medications they are on.

Recommendations from the study (not just for Nebraska) are:
• Educate the public to understand the risks of prescription drug use to avoid misuse in the first place;
• Ensure responsible prescribing practices, including increasing education of healthcare providers and prescribers to better understand how medications can be misused and to identify patients in need of treatment;
• Increase understanding about safe storage of medication and proper disposal of unused medications, such as through "take back" programs;
• Expand access to and availability of effective treatment options as a key component of any strategy to combat prescription drug abuse

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