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Senate Resolution 225--Designating the Month of August 2007 as "National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month"

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

SENATE RESOLUTION 225--DESIGNATING THE MONTH OF AUGUST 2007 AS ``NATIONAL MEDICINE ABUSE AWARENESS MONTH'' -- (Senate - June 07, 2007)

Mr. BIDEN (for himself and Mr. GRASSLEY) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary:

S. Res. 225

Whereas over-the-counter and prescription medicines are extremely safe, effective, and potentially lifesaving when used properly, but the abuse and recreational use of these medicines can be extremely dangerous and produce serious side effects;

Whereas 6,400,000 individuals who are age 12 or older reported using prescription medicines non-medically in a recently sampled month, and abuse of prescription medications such as pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants, and sedatives is second only to marijuana, the number 1 illegal drug of abuse in the United States;

Whereas, recent studies indicate that 1 in 10 youth ages 12 through 17, or 2,400,000 children, has intentionally abused cough medicine to get high from its dextromethorphan ingredient, and 1 in 5 young adults (4,500,000) has used prescription medicines non-medically;

Whereas, according to research from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, more than 1/3 of teens mistakenly believe that taking prescription drugs, even if not prescribed by a doctor, is much safer than using street drugs;

Whereas teens' and parents' lack of understanding of the potential harms of these powerful medicines makes it more critical than ever to raise public awareness about the dangers of their misuse;

Whereas, when prescription drugs are misused, they are most often obtained through friends and relatives, but are also obtained through rogue Internet pharmacies;

Whereas parents should be aware that the Internet gives teens access to websites that promote medicine misuse;

Whereas National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month promotes the message that over-the-counter and prescription medicines are to be taken only as labeled or prescribed, and when used recreationally or in large doses can have serious and life-threatening consequences;

Whereas National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month will encourage parents to educate themselves about this problem and talk to their teens about all types of substance abuse;

Whereas observance of National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month should be encouraged at the national, State, and local levels to increase awareness of the rising misuse of medicines;

Whereas some groups, such as the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, have taken important proactive steps like creating educational toolkits, such as ``A Dose of Prevention: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse Before it Starts'', which includes guides to educate parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, doctors and healthcare professionals, and retailers about the potential harms of cough and cold medicines and over-the-counter drug abuse;

Whereas the nonprofit Partnership for a Drug-Free America and its community alliance and affiliate partners have undertaken a nationwide prevention campaign utilizing research-based educational advertisements, public relations and news media, and the Internet to inform parents about the negative teen behavior of intentional abuse of medicines so that parents are empowered to effectively communicate the facts of this dangerous trend with their teens and to take necessary steps to safeguard prescription and over-the-counter medicines in their homes; and

Whereas educating the public on the dangers of medicine abuse and promoting prevention is a critical component of what must be a multi-pronged effort to curb this disturbing rise in over-the-counter and cough medicine misuse: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate--

(1) designates the month of August 2007 as ``National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month''; and

(2) urges communities to carry out appropriate programs and activities to educate parents and youth of the potential dangers associated with medicine abuse.

Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce a resolution marking August 2007 as National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month. The intentional misuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs has reached troubling levels. This resolution takes an important step in raising teens' and parents' awareness of the problem.

While recent studies indicate that the use of illegal drugs has declined somewhat over the past 5 years, the excessive use of legally available drugs has skyrocketed during the same period. The figures speak for themselves: 1 in 5 teens has misused prescription drugs, and more people age 12 or older have recently started misusing prescription pain relievers than smoking marijuana.

The numbers are also troubling for abuse of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. While over-the-counter and prescription medicines are safe, effective, and potentially lifesaving when used properly, the abuse and recreational use of these medicines can be lethal. Recent studies indicate that 1 in 10 young people aged 12 through 17, or 2.4 million kids, have intentionally abused cough medicine to get high off of its active ingredient, Dextromethorphan. This trend is dangerous, and it must stop.

The problem is multifaceted, but one critical element of the solution is clear: educating teens and parents about the grave dangers of medicine abuse.

The way I see it, the problem of non-medical use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs can be chalked up to two key factors. First, too many teens are under the impression that ``legal'' drugs are safe anytime, in any dose, and even without a prescription or doctor supervision. They are gravely mistaken. Excessive prescription drug use can lead to dependency, overdose, and even death, if not prescribed and monitored by a physician.

Second, these drugs are cheap and easy to obtain. A bottle of cough syrup costs a few dollars and a prescription drug can be taken from a medicine cabinet for free. A February 2007 report released by the Office of National Drug Control Policy reveals that a shocking 47 percent of youth interviewed said they got their prescription drugs for free from a relative or friend. The last thing a parent wants is to become his or her child's ``dealer.'' But that is precisely what happens when they leave medications lying around at home. Hence, these two factors, a false perception of the dangers and a cheap, readily accessible high, have put our teens in danger, and we must act to protect them.

National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month takes an important step to raise public awareness about the dangers that misuse of these drugs pose by promoting the message that over-the-counter and prescription medicines must be taken only as labeled or prescribed, and that when used recreationally or in large doses they can have serious and life-threatening consequences. It reminds parents to educate themselves about this problem and talk to their children about all types of substance abuse, and it encourages national, State, and local officials to increase awareness of this disturbing trend.

I have worked and continue to work in consultation with the Consumer Health Care Products Association and the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America, to reverse this trend, and I applaud the important steps that these groups have taken. Among other initiatives, they have created educational toolkits, such as A Dose of Prevention: Stopping Cough Medicine Abuse Before It Starts, which include guides to educate parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, doctors and healthcare professionals, and retailers about the potential harms of cough and cold medicines and over-the-counter drug abuse.

I also commend the nonprofit Partnership for Drug-Free America and its community alliance and affiliate partners for undertaking a nationwide prevention campaign. Their campaign utilizes research-based educational advertisements, public relations, news media and the Internet to inform parents about the prevalence of intentional abuse of medicines among teens, empowering parents to effectively communicate the facts of this dangerous trend to their children and to take necessary steps to keep prescription and over-the-counter medicines safely in their homes.

Prevention is a key component of the solution, and education is a key component of prevention. We've got to do our best to raise awareness on this matter, and reverse the worrisome trend of increasing over-the-counter and prescription drug misuse. This resolution takes an important step towards achieving that goal.


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