What Are Drug-Monitoring Programs?

What Are Drug-Monitoring Programs?A prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) is an electronic database of prescription drug information that is managed at the state level. The data is accessible to persons who are authorized access under state law for purposes of their profession, typically including law enforcement personnel, legislators, medical personnel, and clinical researchers, among others. The purpose of a PDMP is to provide a tool to combat prescription drug abuse, addiction and diversion of prescription drugs onto the black market.

The Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic

Prescription drug abuse is now recognized as a public health crisis of epidemic proportions. Abuse of and addiction to prescription drugs affects Americans in all regions and among all social strata. It impacts lives in a multitude of destructive ways. Individual lives are destroyed and families are torn apart. The social costs related to health care, insurance and law enforcement are borne by all elements of society, regardless of whether or not they have been touched directly. The full extent of the effects of the epidemic is impossible to calculate.

There are, however, hard data regarding one of the most serious consequences of prescription drug abuse: overdose death. The following are facts concerning prescription drug overdose:

  • Drug overdose is now the second leading cause of accidental injury-related death in the United States, just behind motor vehicle accidents.
  • Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 45-54.
  • Death rates from drug overdose have climbed steadily since the early 1970s and reached all-time highs in the early 21st century.
  • Overdose death rates are currently 4-5 times higher than they were in the heroin epidemic of the 1970s and twice as high as in the crack cocaine epidemic of the early 1990s.
  • In 2005, 22,400 Americans died from drug overdose.
  • The huge increase in overdose deaths is related to use of prescription drugs (mostly opioid painkillers) and not traditional “street” drugs like heroin and cocaine.
  • Deaths related to opioid painkillers increased 160% in the first five years of this century.
  • In 2004, death rates from opioid overdose exceeded those of heroin and cocaine combined.
  • Prescription drugs (including opioid pain killers and benzodiazepine sedatives) account for roughly 45% of overdose deaths, compared to roughly 39% for heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, and methamphetamines combined.
  • Opioids are listed as the primary drug in more than 38% of overdose deaths.
  • Americans in their 40s are more likely than those in their 20s to die of overdose.
  • Caucasians are more likely than African-Americans to die of overdose.
  • Rates of fatal overdose are higher in rural areas than in inner cities.

Source: Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

How PDMPs Can Help

PDMPs will not solve the problem alone but are part of a multi-faceted approach. PDMPs will serve a variety of functions, including establishing trends of drug abuse, addiction, and diversion to inform lawmakers and public health officials, identifying regions where the problem is especially acute, and identifying individuals who will benefit from treatment. PDMPs have tremendous potential as a tool to combat the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and addiction.

Finding Treatment for Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction

Treatment is available to help those suffering from addiction regain control of their lives. If you would like help finding treatment for addiction, or if you have any questions about addiction, treatment, or recovery, please call our toll-free 24 hour helpline.