Prescription drug abuse

Sunday, March 01, 2015 11:28 AM
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Gov. Hickenlooper launches “Take Meds Seriously” campaign

by Kate Alfano, CMS communications coordinator

Colorado is addressing the growing problem of the abuse of prescription medicine with a new public awareness campaign, “Take Meds Seriously.” Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the education effort in a news conference at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy on the Anschutz Medical Campus on Feb. 24. The campaign aims to reduce prescription drug abuse and misuse in the state by advising the general public on the safest ways to use, store and dispose of prescription medicine.

Recent statistics and surveys reveal how pervasive prescription drug misuse and abuse is in Colorado. Thirty-five Coloradans died each month in 2013 from unintentional drug overdoses. Nearly 224,000 Coloradans misuse prescription drugs each year. At least one-third of Coloradans surveyed admitted using medicine prescribed for someone else. One in six of Colorado’s 12th graders have taken prescription medicine that was not written for them. And Coloradans admit that at least half their households have drugs that are unused or out of date.

“Take Meds Seriously” features a new website,, along with statewide advertising and public outreach efforts. The website is designed to educate consumers on three issues: safe use, safe storage and safe disposal. Physician practices and pharmacies can access customizable handouts on the website.

This public awareness effort grew out of the work of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, of which the Colorado Medical Society is an active participant and strong supporter. Gov. Hickenlooper convened the consortium in 2013 to establish a coordinated, statewide response to prescription drug abuse and misuse. It links the many agencies, organizations, health professions, associations, task forces and programs that are addressing the prescription drug abuse problem.

“Colorado ranks 12th in the nation for the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs,” Hickenlooper said. “This campaign is just one part of a coordinated, statewide strategy that simultaneously restricts access to prescription drugs for illicit use, while ensuring access for those who legitimately need them. The messages and tools provided through this effort will help us take on this serious public health challenge as part of our commitment to becoming the healthiest state in the nation.”

A 2014 survey conducted for the Consortium by National Research Center, Inc., found four in 10 Colorado adults say they’ve misused prescription medicine, mostly painkillers, and a third of those adults used the medicine for recreational purposes. Few Coloradans lock and store their medicine in places children can’t access, and only one in 10 had returned expired medicine to a police or sheriff’s department. Those surveyed expressed strong support for increased state funding in education to address the problem, as well as resources to deal with the “take-back” of drugs by law enforcement agencies.

The new campaign is an integral part of the governor’s Colorado Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse, which, in keeping with its commitment to making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation, has set the goal of preventing 92,000 Coloradans from engaging in the non-medical use of prescription pain medication by 2016. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will assist the consortium with a coordinating role in the campaign.

Gov. Hickenlooper was co-chairman of the National Governors Association’s efforts, along with Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, to create awareness and regulatory mechanisms to fight the prescription drug abuse problem in the states.

Visit for more information.

Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Initiatives | Prescription Drug Abuse | Patient Safety and Professional Accountability


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