For Immediate Release
March 30, 2010
Attorney General Michael A. Delaney
Governor John Lynch, Attorney General Michael A. Delaney, Commissioner of the Department of Safety John Barthelmes, and the Association of Chiefs of Police announce that New Hampshire's first Prescription Drug Summit was held today in Concord. The Summit brought together a variety of professionals to share their perspectives on the growing problem of prescription drug abuse and misuse, as well as to map a strategy to control and reduce the problem.
Governor Lynch recognized the need for collaboration, stating, "Law enforcement, doctors, treatment providers, and legislators must work together as the State moves forward to address the threat from misused prescription drugs." According to Attorney General Delaney, "The Summit will draw much needed attention to the problem of prescription drug abuse in New Hampshire." Department of Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes said, "The Summit is a first step for a society awash in prescription drugs and experiencing an increase in crimes by abusers desperate for money or drugs." US Attorney John Kacavas called prescription drug abuse "a national scourge," and believes the Summit will help keep New Hampshire ahead of the curve in addressing the growing problem.
Chief Medical Examiner Tom Andrew noted that drug deaths in New Hampshire have risen 400% since 1997, with 160 documented for 2009. He described the deaths as "representing only the tip of the public health iceberg," in that abusers of prescription drugs are visiting hospital emergency rooms and seeking treatment on an unprecedented scale. According to Dr. Andrew, opiates are the leading cause of drug deaths. In eighty-three of the deaths in 2009, the decedent had a prescription for the drugs that caused his or her death. In sixty-three cases, the drugs were illicitly obtained. Dr. Andrew commented that New Hampshire is one of a handful of jurisdictions in which drugs deaths have surpassed traffic deaths.
Dr. Seddon Savage from the Dartmouth Center on Addiction Recovery and Education stressed the need for doctors to balance legitimate medical purposes against potential consequences. She noted that powerful narcotics like opiates are safe if well prescribed and taken as prescribed, but potentially deadly if misused.
Additional speakers included Chief David Lesperance of the Salisbury, Massachusetts Police Department, whose son Christopher died from misusing prescription drugs, Nancy Coffey from the Drug Enforcement Administration in Boston, Joseph Harding from the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Services in the Department of Health and Human Services, and federal officials from the National Drug Intelligence Center and the Office of National Drug Control Policy. A common theme emphasized by many of the speakers was the need for a comprehensive approach to prescription drug abuse and misuse that combined professional education, public policy, education, law enforcement, the court system, medical clinical practice changes, and pharmacy practice improvements.
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