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July 9, 2011

Reporter’s Notebook: Prescription drug abuse rising at alarming rate

Denise Richardson
Staff Writer

---- — The fight against drug use is focusing on just saying “no’’ to pills from the medicine cabinet at home.

Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, according to law enforcement officials who organized a summit on awareness and prevention last month.

Police and leaders in public health, pharmaceuticals, health care and education fields met June 16 for a New York Rx Summit at the state police academy in Albany, a media release said.

The summit was convened by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, the Drug Enforcement Administration, state police and many other organizations. Training on combating the diversion of prescription drugs for illegitimate use was provided by the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and others.

The 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 52 million Americans age 12 and older had used prescription drugs non-medically; 2.6 million Americans age 12 and older had used prescription drugs nonmedically for the first time within the past year.

The 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that one in five high school students in the United States had taken a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription, the release said, among other studies cited.

The release from the summit also mentioned ways to reduce illegal use of prescription drugs. Measures suggested included teaching parents, youth, patients, and health care providers about the dangers of the misuse of prescription drugs.

“Parents also are critical partners in this effort,’’ U.S. Attorney Richard Hartunian said. He urged parents to talk to their children about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs and dispose of unused, unneeded and expired medications.

“Working together, we can reduce the risk of harm to our children and save lives,” Hartunian said in the release.

A.O. Fox Hospital President John Remillard released some facts to highlight roles the Oneonta hospital and its staff have in generating revenue for the local economy, providing health care and supporting the community through volunteer work.

The Hospital Association of New York State released a report last fall that said New York hospitals contribute nearly $108 billion annually to the economy, a media release from Fox Hospital said.

Remillard estimated the Fox Hospital’s 2010 economic impact on the area at $158 million.

“With 950 employees and a payroll of $38.4 million, we continue to be a major factor in the well-being of Oneonta,’’ he said in the release issued for National Hospital Week in May. The hospital’s affiliation with the Bassett Healthcare Network has been a major factor in maintaining Fox’s tradition of excellence.

“Our future and economic viability have been greatly enhanced and assured by our joining forces with Bassett,” Remillard said in the release. Fox’s presence is important to residents of all ages, he said.

“Down the road,” he said, “given our greater than the national average number of seniors, the Fox Nursing Home and other services will be crucial for our citizens.”

For a second consecutive year, each 2010-11 freshman in SUNY Delhi’s program on computer-aided drafting and design who took the certified drafter national exam achieved a 100 percent pass rate.

At the State University College of Technology at Delhi, 14 students earned the distinction of American Design Drafting Association certified drafters, a media release issued this week said.

“Passing this certification test is a major advantage for our students who are seeking summer jobs or internships in the field,’’ Distinguished Professor Joseph Greenfield of computer aided drafting and design, said in the release. “It proves that they have met a national standard in mechanical drafting,” SUNY Delhi’s computer aided drafting and design program prepares students for employment as a designer/drafter or serves as a stepping stone to other technical and managerial positions.

Denise Richardson covers health care, business and higher education for The Daily Star. She can be reached at 432-1000 or (800) 721-1000, ext. 213, or at