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Larissa Doucette

People who abuse prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin, reports the July edition of CDC Vital Signs. Researchers from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and FDA looked at the factors behind America’s heroin epidemic and found that prescription opioid abuse is the strongest risk factor for a heroin use disorder, indicates a press release. Additionally, 45% of people who currently abuse heroin were addicted to opioid painkillers in the past.

The report suggests several ways to help solve the problem. Prescription monitoring programs (PMPs), which are used to track an individual’s controlled substance prescription drug history, should be widely available and easy to use. Health care providers should prescribe the lowest effective dose of opioid painkiller and only in a quantity that is needed, and they should also be able to connect patients with treatment programs as necessary, advises CDC in the report.

The AWARXE program encourages pharmacists to do their part in the fight against prescription drug abuse and take the Pharmacist’s Pledge. Resources are available to help pharmacists implement the pledge, such as flyers that can be posted in local pharmacies.