Senators Introduce Resolution that Designates August 2008 as 'National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month'
U.S. Senators Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs, and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today introduced a resolution designating August 2008 as "National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month." The Resolution encourages parents to educate themselves and to talk to their teens about the dangers of medicine abuse.
"It's not just the illegal street drugs that we have to worry about. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines can be dangerously addictive and sometimes lethal," said Sen. Biden. "We've got to do a better job educating everyone about the risks of medicine abuse."
"We need to have all hands on deck to combat medicine abuse among our nation's youth," Sen. Grassley said. "Parents need to know the serious risk posed by household medicines that can have lethal consequences for their children. I'm hopeful this designation will help bring parents and children to the table to discuss the harmful effects of prescription medicines and the devastating impact they can have on a child's future."
In March 2008, Sen. Biden chaired a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the alarming trends associated with abuse rates of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including the fact that an estimated 5.2 million people aged 12 or older are using prescription pain relievers for non-medical reasons. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently reported that misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana use as the nation's most prevalent drug problem. In fact, more people recently started using pain relievers non-medically than started using marijuana, which is the most widely abused drug in the country. According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 1 in 10 teens reports having abused over-the-counter cough medicines to get high, and more than 1/3 of teens mistakenly believe that taking prescription drugs is much safer than using street drugs.
Although abuse of over-the-counter and prescriptions drugs is not a new phenomenon, the Internet has become an information superhighway for teens and adults looking to abuse them. Teens can surf the Internet and learn how to overdose on products containing Dextromethorphan, or DXM, the active ingredient in cough and cold medicines. Rogue Internet pharmacies contribute to the problem by allowing an Internet user to easily obtain powerful prescription drugs. Moreover, an alarming number of teens report obtaining these medications from a friend or relative, often from a medicine cabinet.
Sens. Biden and Grassley together introduced legislation in October 2007, the Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act (S. 2274), to specifically help combat DXM abuse. This bipartisan legislation aims to curb the alarming rise in medicine abuse, including teens' misuse of cough and cold medicines containing Dextromethorphan, by regulating the sale of the bulk form of Dextromethorphan and prohibiting the sale of Dextromethorphan-containing products to buyers under 18 years old - a move voluntarily taken by several major retail stores. It also provides robust funding for prevention and educational programs to combat over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse.
"Everyone needs to know the cold, hard facts about medicine abuse. Designating August "National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month' will help call much needed attention to this national problem by encouraging everyone to learn about and discuss the serious and life-threatening consequences of medicine abuse," added Sen. Biden.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America has launched Time To Talk and Not In My House initiatives to help parents to talk with their tweens and teens, and to provide parents and caregivers with tools to start and continue the conversation about the dangers of medicine abuse. In addition, the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association developed A Dose of Prevention, an education toolkit that arms parents and educators with key information to address medicine abuse.