In 2015, 5.8 Million opioid prescriptions were written in Alabama. More than 700 Alabamians died of opioid overdoses that same year.
To help fight the growing national incidents of prescription drug abuse, the Harrison School of Pharmacy is assisting the state with this problem.
The most effective method they’ve used to date has been a conference for the people who typically have the first opportunity to intervene in drug-abuse matters–law enforcement, first responders and health care professionals. The conference, held in conjunction with the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, or ADECA, was made possible by a grant from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.
“The response was fantastic,” said Haley Phillippe, associate clinical professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy. “Working with ADECA was great, especially connecting us to law enforcement to share knowledge with them and learn about what they see on a day-to-day basis. Several attendees thanked
us for putting this together because they never would have learned about these things otherwise.”
A greater collaboration by all of these community branches will aid in the fight to decrease the near-epidemic level of drug use in
“This isn’t a problem we can arrest our way out of.”
Alabama. After all, “addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as such,” said Brent Fox, associate professor with the Harrison School of Pharmacy and one of the program leaders.
“This isn’t a problem we can arrest our way out of,” said Brian Forster of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs’ Law Enforcement and Traffic Safety Division. “Doctors, nurses, mental health professionals and law enforcement have to communicate effectively with one another if we’re going to find real solutions to this problem.”
Karen Marlowe, assistant dean of the Harrison School of Pharmacy, highlighted the importance of community-based solutions for patients and their families. “Solutions need to balance patient treatment for pain management and the need
to prevent misuse of opioids,” she said.
Conference presenters included Auburn pharmacy faculty and representatives from the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama State Board of Pharmacy, Alabama District Attorney’s Association and law enforcement members from drug task forces around the state.
Alabama has one of the highest prescription pain medication rates in the country. The rise of opioid prescriptions has been seen in part due to an increased recognition of the impact of pain within the state and region. In 2011, at least 100 million adult Americans had common chronic pain conditions. Pain is a significant public health problem, which is estimated to cost society $560-$635 billion annually.
Of all drugs leading to overdoses, only 17 percent were prescribed to the individual by a doctor, with the most common source of the drugs being the family medicine cabinet. Only 10 percent of those with addictions in Alabama receive treatment.