Opiates and overdoses

State agencies team up to address abuse of prescription medication

State public health officials, calling poisonings from prescription medications an epidemic, have formed a new task force—the Prescription Opioid Misuse and Prevention Workgroup.

Nationally, drug overdoses have overtaken car crashes as the No. 1 cause of accidental death, and over half those deaths involve pharmaceutical drugs, according to a press release from the California Department of Public Health. Opioid pain relievers, though often legally obtained, are the most widely abused prescription drugs; the number of people being treated for opioid addiction in publicly funded programs in California has doubled since 2007, and the total cost of health care related to abuse of opioid medications in the U.S. is estimated at $70 billion.

The group includes a range of state heath organizations and will work to educate the public regarding the Medical Board of California’s recently revised guidelines for prescribing pain medication.