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South Dakota’s fight against prescription drug abuse

February 10, 2018 GMT

The conversation continues around the Nation on the prescription drug epidemic. In 2014, South Dakota ranked 49 out of 51 states for drug overdose deaths and 20 out of 21 states in 2015. Unfortunately, the unchecked national epidemic has made its reach into South Dakota. We must be more vigilant than ever in South Dakota to fight back and be proactive in protecting against prescription drug abuse.

In South Dakota we have had measurable success as monitored through the State’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP). Since 2015, prescription quantity has steadily declined. Below is a chart that represents those numbers.

The total number of prescribed pills dropped from 50,949,226 in 2015 to 39,257,469 in 2017, likewise the total number of prescriptions dropped from 709,814 in 2015 to 595,934 in 2017. Although these are significant changes in the amounts of pills that are being prescribed by our local physicians, there is considerable work that must be done.

In 2010, PDMP was passed into law at the request of the Attorney General and with the support of the stakeholders. The purpose of this voluntary program was to improve patient care by providing physicians and pharmacists with prescription history for their patients. Pharmacists and physicians voluntary participation is helping to prevent and reduce prescription abuses and enhance public health and safety. Thus far, the program is working as intended.

We must remain cautious, as these numbers do not include the opioid exchange via the Dark Web. It is difficult to measure the number of these illegal drugs that are entering our state. We will have to continue to lean heavily on our local, state and federal law enforcement to continue with their drug interdiction efforts in this area. We are seeing many cases of law enforcement successfully intercepting fentanyl deliveries via US Mail. This is a serious concern to both the public and law enforcement and the dangerous affect this drug has anyone who comes in direct contact. It is even more important now that we keep our first responders armed with naloxone, a medicine to reverse the effects of these opioid overdoses. Attorney General sponsored legislation in 2015, has allowed us to equip all first responders to carry naloxone and to do so through the Drug Control Fund. Having naloxone available is a cost-effective way to save lives especially to our rural first responders.

We also applaud those pharmacy based businesses that are working to offer prescription drug take-bake drop off locations for the public. Many law enforcement agencies across the state already put time and resources to reduce drug diversion by offering these types of drop offs, but the more access individuals have to these locations for quick disposal of these unwanted, unused prescription drugs the better. Law enforcement agencies across the nation are placing significant resources towards battling the rise in prescription drug abuse. This epidemic reaches and affects a broad spectrum of individuals, including ordinary citizens with legitimate pain reduction needs. We must continue to focus on our local efforts.

Diversion efforts will continue, but we must find ways to help those afflicted with addiction. Assisting the abusers to find lifestyles free from drug abuse, addiction and crime is the ultimate goal to make our communities healthier and safer.