Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. Today, overdoses involving prescription painkillers kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, and prescription drug misuse is now the third leading cause of accidental deaths. Taking one life in the United States every 19 minutes, prescription drug overdoses have more than tripled since 1990. Compared to other commonly abused illicit drugs, prescription drugs are unique because they can be obtained through legal channels. These drugs have become attractive to drug seekers and abusers because they are manufactured legitimately and prescribed by physicians, giving them the illusion of safety. Though access to these drugs begins with a prescription, the problem extends far beyond the doctor’s office, as 72 percent of those who misuse prescription drugs identify family and friends as their primary source of pills.
While participating in a panel discussion at New York University on May 6, 2013, President Clinton announced the Clinton Foundation’s strategy to address and combat prescription drug abuse. The Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) will recruit colleges and universities to help address prescription drug misuse on campuses, which will be a comprehensive program expanding the capacity of student and campus leaders to implement best practice strategies that will reduce the number of their classmates’ lives taken by prescription drugs.
In addition to its work on college campuses, CHMI will build partnerships with the corporate, non-governmental, philanthropic, and public sectors to:
- Engage businesses that host physically demanding professions to integrate prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment into workplace wellness efforts;
- Work with the pharmaceutical industry and others to improve supply and affordability of Naloxone/Narcan, a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose; and
- Engage medical associations, physician groups, retail pharmacy chains and others to expand the reach and improve the effectiveness of prescription drug monitoring programs that help detect and prevent the distribution and abuse of prescription drugs.
Over the next five years, CHMI’s efforts will cut in half the number of 18 to 26 year olds misusing prescription drugs for the first time. Ultimately, by implementing sustainable evidence-based initiatives on college campuses and by engaging in strategic partnerships across all sectors, CHMI aims to save 10,000 lives.