The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Substance Abuse Prevention and Control program and the Safe Med LA coalition advance efforts to educate the community to address prescription drug abuse.
On Tuesday, March 1, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors proclaimed March as Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month, highlighting the dangers of misusing prescription drugs and the available resources for addressing this public health issue.
“The misuse of prescription drugs is a serious and growing problem in Los Angeles County,” said Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, Interim Health Officer for Los Angeles County. “Public Health encourages all community members to take this month to educate and inform themselves about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Spread the message to only take prescription medications meant for you and to take medications exactly as directed by your health care provider.”
In LA County, opioid-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations have increased, and approximately 400 individuals die each year due to prescription opioids. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 44 people in the U.S. die from overdosing on prescription painkillers every day, and many more become dependent on these medications. While there has been no overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report, the quantity of prescription painkillers dispensed in the U.S. has quadrupled since 1999, as has the death rate from these medications.
“The abuse of painkillers, drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone, codeine and morphine, is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem and has been classified as an epidemic by the CDC,” stated Dr. Gary Tsai, Medical Director and Science Officer for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Control Program, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. Dr. Tsai also serves as chair of Safe Med LA. “If you or any of your loved ones have problems with prescription drug abuse or need help finding treatment, please contact the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health for more information.”
Safe Med LA is a countywide coalition that brings together local leaders from medical societies, public health and health departments, health plans, clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, law enforcement, addiction treatment providers and others committed to lowering prescription painkiller overuse and overdose deaths in LA County. For more information about Safe Med LA, visit: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/sapc/Plan/StrategicPlan.htm
Later this month, the Board of Supervisors will review a potential ordinance that allows LA County residents to conveniently turn in their unused medications and sharps at no cost. To learn more about the Pharmaceutical Take-Back program, visit at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/pharma.htm.
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises nearly 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $900 million. To learn more about the LA County Department of Public Health and the work they do, visit PublicHealth.LACounty.gov, and follow Public Health on social media at twitter.com/LAPublicHealth, facebook.com/LAPublicHealth, and youtube.com/LAPublicHealth.