Prescription drug abuse remains one of the fastest growing illegal drug problems in Iowa, but state officials are hoping increased use of a law enforcement tool will begin to reverse the trend. Dale Woolery, associate director of the Iowa Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), says it appears more physicians and pharmacists are utilizing a statewide electronic database known as the Prescription Monitoring Program.
“We’re pleased to see health care professionals using it more because that means they’re checking more often to see if any of us might be taking medicines we shouldn’t be taking,” Woolery says. “They can try and identify those who might be doctor shopping so there could be an intervention, help can be provided or if criminal prosecution is required, that can be done as well.”
In 2011, according to the ODCP, 62 Iowans died as a result of an overdose of prescription drugs. That marked a 59-percent increase over 2010. Woolery provided an update on drug trends Thursday during a meeting of the state’s Drug Policy Advisory Council in Des Moines.
Woolery said significant progress has been made to curb the sale and use of dangerous synthetic drugs like K2, but challenges remain.
“This is a constantly changing type of issue that we’re going to have to try and stay up on,” Woolery said.
“We have a legislative proposal to try and get our arms around the new products and try to get ahead where we can.” He said synthetic drug makers are constantly altering their products to try and skirt laws banning the substances. Alcohol and marijuana are the two most abused substances in Iowa.
Woolery noted an increasing amount of the marijuana law enforcement officers are seizing in Iowa is coming from Colorado – where the drug was essentially decriminalized late last year. “I believe it now constitutes about one-third of the interdiction shipments of illegal drugs in the state. That’s up considerably from what it had been because most of it previously was coming from the southwest U.S. and Mexico,” Woolery said.
A recent report found just over 26% of all Iowans screened or admitted for drug treatment in 2011 said marijuana was their primary substance of abuse.