A new report on illegal drug use in the state shows prescription drug abuse remains on the rise. Steve Lukan is director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy.

“Unfortunately, last year, we had 62 Iowans who died as a result of overdose of prescription drugs, pain medications in particular. That’s an all-time high,” Lukan said.

The 62 deaths in 2011 marked a 59% increase over 2010. Lukan said national studies have found 70% of prescription drug abuse is tied to users who are stealing the meds from friends or family.

“We need to remind people to keep an eye on their medications and make sure they’re in a secure, safe place,” Lukan said. “From time to time, they may actually want to count them and make sure they aren’t missing medications.”

The rise in prescription drug abuse is also blamed on “doctor shopping” – or people going to multiple doctors to get pain medications and then selling the drugs.

Lukan is calling on more health care professionals to help thwart doctor shopping by taking part in the voluntary Iowa Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP). Additionally, he’s recommending the PMP being “networked” across state lines to prevent Iowans from doctor shopping in neighboring states.

 The increase in prescription pain reliever addicts in Iowa is also cited for a rise in heroin users.

“Many in the law enforcement community would tell you that they are really linked – prescription drug abuse and heroin,” Lukan said. “Often times, when the prescription drugs become too expensive or they lose some of the effect, people will turn to heroin. Heroin is cheaper, in many cases, than prescription drugs and possibly easier to get your hands on.”

Iowa recorded 10 heroin overdose deaths in 2011, the most in recent history. In addition to heroin and prescription meds, the report found an increase in marijuana use in Iowa last year.

The complete report is posted at: www.Iowa.Gov/ODCP