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Bentley awards funding to combat prescription drug abuse

Published 3:27pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gov. Robert Bentley has awarded a $125,000 grant to combat the illegal use of prescription drugs, which account for about 15,000 deaths annually in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bentley has been a strong advocate of measures to curb the illegal distribution and use of prescription drugs in Alabama for several years and he joined with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2012 to lead a nationwide initiative to increase awareness of the problem and curtail abuse. Bentley signed into law a package of three bills aimed at decreasing prescription drug abuse in Alabama last year.

“Prescription drugs are not generally believed to be as dangerous as illegal drugs, but their abuse can be every bit as lethal as the most potent street drug,” Bentley said. “By taking some safeguards, we can ensure that prescription drugs are available for those who truly need them, at the dosage and for period of time prescribed by the doctor.”

According to Bentley, abuse of prescription drugs, particularly painkiller medication, affects all income and education levels and career fields. In addition to death by accidental overdose, prescription drug abuse is a factor in suicides and accidental deaths involving vehicles and machinery.

The grant funding will support programs to reduce the amount of controlled prescription medications dispensed. Education programs will alert the public as well as medical professionals, pharmacists and law enforcement agencies about the extent of prescription drug misuse.

Programs geared toward law enforcement officers and the public will address the ways prescription drugs are obtained and describe the signs of abuse and how to identify an abuser.

Alabama has one of the highest rates in the nation of prescription painkillers sold per 1,000 people, and the state ranks high in the number of fatal overdoses of prescription painkillers, according to the CDC, a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Bentley notified Randall Hillman, executive director of Alabama Office of Prosecution Services, that the grant had been approved.

The Office of Prosecution Services will work in cooperation with the Alabama Drug Abuse Task Force, the state departments of Public Health and Education and local district attorneys to implement and enforce prescription drug policy.

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