Protecting Our Kids from Rx Drug Abuse

Protecting Our Kids from Rx Drug Abuse

Prescription painkillers bring welcomed relief to thousands of Michiganders.  And yet in the past decade, the abuse of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes has soared.

So severe is the problem, that the national Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now describes itas a “growing, deadly epidemic.”  Drug overdose death rates have more than tripled since 1990.   According to a 2011 report in the Detroit Free Press, “In Michigan, more residents now die from prescription drug abuse than from heroin and cocaine combined.”  Moreover, the demand for prescription drugs has given rise to an illicit market that has contributed to soaring violence in Detroit and elsewhere.  As a former Detroit Police Chief concluded last year, “The pill trade is driving a lot of the violence on the streets right now.”  (Detroit Free Press3/22/12)  The epidemic touches people everywhere, but it poses a special threat to our kids.

In the battle to keep our kids safe, we need all hands on deck.  Parents, teachers, law enforcement, state regulatory heads, and many others play a role.  And the Michigan Attorney General, as the “guardian of the people,” should be leading the way.

But when forty-six state attorneys general — Democrats and Republicans — came together earlier this week to send a strong message to Washington about the prescription drug epidemic, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette was nowhere to be found.

The AGs signed a letter asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ensure that generic versions of prescription drugs include tamper-resistant features to limit the possibilities for abuse.  As the letter explains, “[a]dding new physical and chemical features to prescription opioids to deter abuse could reduce misuse of these drugs and the sometimes deadly consequences.”

Why did Bill Schuette refuse to join this bi-partisan chorus of state law enforcement leaders asking federal regulators to take action?

The Michigan Attorney General has both the authority and the platform to lead the fight against prescription drug abuse.  Although our state and federal law enforcement officials are working hard to address the problem, we need to devote even more resources to the fight — especially to stop rogue suppliers.  And we can’t miss a single opportunity to protect our kids.

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