Pharmacists need to raise their own drug abuse IQ

August 8, 2005

Pharmacists need to be better trained to deal with the controlled-substance abuse that has skyrocketed over the past decade, according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Pharmacists need to be better trained to deal with the controlled-substance abuse that has skyrocketed over the past decade, according to a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University.

Pharmacists, physicians, drugmakers, wholesalers, law enforcement officials, and public officials must do more to reduce abuse of controlled prescription drugs, according to CASA. The three-year long research project found that the number of Americans who abuse controlled Rx drugs nearly doubled from 7.8 million in 1992 to 15.1 million in 2003. Abuse among teenagers jumped 212% and rose 81% among adults aged 18 and older during the same time period. Prescriptions for controlled substances rose 150%, nearly three times the rate of increase for all other drugs.

"Our nation is in the throes of an epidemic of controlled prescription drug abuse and addiction," said Joseph Califano Jr., CASA chairman-president and former U.S. secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare. "Pharmacists must stop pointing the finger at patients and step up their vigilance and take more responsibility to curb abuse and diversion of potentially addictive controlled prescription drugs such as opioids, depressants, and stimulants."

"The take-home message for pharmacists is that the profession needs to be paying a whole lot more attention to the widespread abuse of prescription medications," said Henri Manasse Jr., Ph.D., ASHP executive VP-CEO, who served on the CASA study commission. "I was astounded when the data came out about how widespread this problem is and how pharmacists don't feel that they're properly educated and don't have resources at their disposal to deal with the problem."

The profession may need to organize a collaborative task force to carefully review the CASA report and develop an action plan, Manasse said. "ASHP is combing through the report to figure out how we ought to deal with it. But I think it has to be dealt with professionwide," he said. "The data are just staggering."

Other key findings from the CASA survey of pharmacists included the following:

To download a free copy of the CASA report, go to http://www.casacolumbia.org/supportcasa/item.asp?cID=12&PID=138.