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Maine's Newest Epidemic
Substance Abuse Services Commission
in conjunction with the
Maine Office of Substance Abuse
Oxycontin, a prescription pain medication introduced in 1995 has become a major drug of abuse in Maine over the past five years. Maine has gotten a great deal of publicity for its role as the first state to identify a problem with Oxycontin and other prescription narcotics. Substance abuse treatment admissions for narcotic abuse have increased 500%. Crime related to prescription narcotic abuse has increased dramatically, with opiate arrests now constituting nearly half of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency’s caseload. Abuse of prescription narcotics has caused an increase in emergency room admissions and a dramatic increase in the spread of hepatitis C in the drug using population.
The Substance Abuse Services Commission, an advisory group to the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government conducted a six month study of the issue, and sought advice from a number of experts including medical, law enforcement and treatment professionals and recovering addicts. The recommendations from this study are as follows:
1. Increase access to treatment, especially detoxification services and treatments that are effective for opiate addiction.
2. Increase public education, particularly for children. Education on drug abuse needs to be regular and consistent, not sporadic.
3. Increase participation by school systems in the Maine Youth Drug and Alcohol Use Survey (MYDAUS), which will measure prescription drug abuse for the first time in 2002. Use MYDAUS data to further the development of a statewide prevention plan that involves all departments that provide services to youth and families.
4. Increase funding for law enforcement to address diversion of legal drugs to illegal use targeting areas of the state with the greatest need and the fewest resources.
5. Develop a statewide electronic prescription-monitoring program for Schedule II narcotics. This program should be similar to what is used by Medicaid and insurance companies already and should protect patient confidentiality by limiting access to the database.