Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sec. Tennis: PA has prescription drug abuse epidemic

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secreatry Gary Tennis said prescription drug abuse is so bad "it's a commonwealth epidemic."

Tennis told ABC 27 in Harrisburg 4.2 percent of Pennsylvanians are abusing prescription drugs. Some federal reports also indicate that Pennsylvania is among a group of states with some of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the county.

According to federal health reports, prescription drugs play a large role.

Tennis took his post at Drug and Alcohol Programs, a new department, last year after he was appointed by Governor Tom Corbett. The department's goal is to help Pennsylvanians struggling with addiction.

Reducing prescription drug abuse is near the top of the agency's to-do list.

Doing that, Tennis said, will require some help from the legislature. He hopes they will pass a new pill bill that would monitor those who "doc shop" to get prescription medication. Under the bill, health care professionals would be able to look up what drugs patients have received.

A statute like this is already in place, but Tennis hopes to increase doctor communication and monitoring.

Tennis admits that reducing the problem will take a multi-faceted approach. He says working with health care professionals is a big part of the solution, too.

"[We need] better physician training both in terms of prescribing practices and in terms of spotting addiction," Tennis told ABC 27.

While the problem is an epidemic in Pennsylvania, Tennis is optimistic that the he can help break the state's prescription pill addiction.

"This problem is unnecessary. With the right kind of response, we can really get this problem under control. We really can reduce prescription drug abuse. We know we can drive this problem down," Tennis told ABC 27.

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