A task force has helped compile a report designed to address one of the fastest growing forms of substance abuse in Iowa. Dale Woolery, acting director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), says the report was developed over the past six months to tackle the problem of prescription drug abuse. “The recommendations range from education and training to maybe changing laws or revising policies,” Woolery said. “But the real purpose of the recommendations is to try and elevate this as an issue that we can all pay more attention to and have a role in addressing.”

According to the report, Iowa is tied with Nebraska for the nation’s lowest rate of prescription drug abuse at 3.6%. But, Woolery calls it a rapidly developing threat in the state.

Iowa drug overdose deaths involving prescription pain relievers increased 875% over the last decade, from just four deaths in 2000 to 39 in 2010. “The other thing, coinciding with that, is that substance abuse treatment centers are seeing more admissions of people reporting they have a problem or addiction to prescription medications,” Woolery said. “Those admissions have increased 370-percent from 1999 to 2009.”

Prescription drug abuse not only has a human cost, Woolery said there’s a financial toll as well. “One large national insurance company, that did a study a couple years ago, estimates that for every one dollar in prescription payments to suspected doctor shoppers there’s a $41 cost in related medical claims,” Woolery said. He noted the same medicines that are used to treat injuries and alleviate pain are being abused by people, leading to more accidents, injuries, addiction and deaths.

The 33-member task force convened by the ODCP included health care professionals, substance abuse service providers, law enforcement officers and others. One of the group’s top recommendations calls for “improving the ability of health care professionals to monitor patient medicines through use of Iowa’s electronic Prescription Monitoring Program.”

Click here to view full report.