Prescription drug abuse is in part the pharmacy profession's problem, but the pharmacy profession can also be part of the solution.
Recently I attended the North Carolina Prescription Drug Abuse Training Conference: Creating Partnerships for Solutions. As I reflect on this 1-day program, I would like a share a few insights that the conference provided for me.
First of all, I don’t think I learned anything really new, but having everything I had heard previously from many other sources put together into a single experience made me much more aware of the serious problem that prescription drug abuse poses to our society. I came away from the meeting thinking that this was not just a societal problem, but also my profession’s problem—and it was really also my problem.
Not because I am a prescription drug abuser, but because my profession is really intimately involved in the problem, because my taxes are higher as a result of this problem, and because we are losing lives in my community that we shouldn’t. Although my own family has not been impacted by this problem directly, many families in our communities have been affected by it. I came away with the realization that prescription drug abuse is real—and that the solutions will not be easy. The problem will not be solved by a single program, nor can it be solved by a single group. The prescription drug abuse problem is multi-factorial, so solutions will require a broad coalition of professions, agencies, and community groups to begin impacting this epidemic.
I said I came away from this meeting with the thought that this is the pharmacy profession’s problem. Not that we are the only group who ought to own this problem, but we can be one of the players in the solution. The point was made by several speakers that the pharmacist is the final link between the prescription drug and the patient. Should we become more vigilant about not filing a prescription when we have concern about its appropriateness? Should we check the Controlled Substance Registry in our state before we fill a controlled substance prescription for a new patient? Should we talk to the grandmother getting a pain prescription about how teenagers are getting started on their prescription drug abuse problem by getting drugs from family members? Should we be more involved as a player in prescription drug take back programs in our communities, including making arrangements with local law enforcement agencies to come to our pharmacy quickly when someone wants to dispose of controlled substance prescriptions that are no longer being used?
I pose these questions for your thoughtful response. My answer to each question is “Yes!” I now see this problem as our profession’s problem—and I also see that our profession can be part of the solution. Do you see it differently?