Coloradans are concerned about prescription drug abuse and support increased state funding for initiatives to address the epidemic, according to a survey commissioned by the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention to measure the public’s awareness of the opioid crisis.
More than half of the survey’s 1,400 respondents (57 percent) thought there was a problem with people in their community misusing prescription medication such as opioids, and 57 percent said they had heard or seen a message about prescription drug abuse being a problem in Colorado. Many of those surveyed had a personal connection to the crisis, as 37 percent said they knew someone who was or had been addicted to prescription medication.
The survey found 80 percent of Coloradans have been prescribed a pain medication such as opioids, which include OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet. A third of respondents currently had opioids in their home, but only about half of those individuals were currently using them.
The survey was conducted online and via phone interviews earlier this year and is reflective of what Coloradans know about prescription drug misuse and abuse.
“Prescription drug misuse, especially opioid abuse, remains a problem in Colorado, and residents are rightfully concerned,” said Dr. Robert Valuck, the executive director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and a professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy.
The survey found that 22 percent didn’t know if there was a prescription drug abuse problem in their communities; in a 2014 survey, 42 percent of respondents didn’t know if there was a problem.
“The messages about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and the opioid crisis are getting out, but we need to continue spreading the message because awareness is the first step toward fighting the crises,” Valuck said.
Support for statewide programs
Coloradans believe the state government should support efforts to address the crisis. About 8 in 10 respondents supported more state funding for community-based education programs and to increase access to safe medication disposal boxes in communities. About three-quarters of respondents supported more funding to teach health care providers how to safely prescribe medications and how to better inform their patients about medication risks and options. Seventy-three percent supported using Colorado Medicaid funds to increase access to addiction treatment and secure a 2-to-1 financial match from the Federal government. One in four would be likely to keep naloxone, an antidote to opioid overdoses, in their home or on their person, but awareness remains low about naloxone in general.
“The Consortium and our partners in state government and local communities have worked hard to create strong community prevention, provider education, and safe disposal programs in Colorado,” Valuck said. “These programs are showing signs of success, but we do need more resources to bolster them, and to raise awareness about naloxone in our communities.”
State officials continue to support the fight against the opioid crisis. The Office of the Attorney General, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health, have developed programs to address the crisis. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies has also issued guidelines for prescribers and pharmacists to help assure safe use of opioid medications when they are needed.
“As prescription drug misuse continues to grip the national conversation, our vibrant Colorado communities are suffering from the devastating impacts of this crisis, virtually reaching every corner of the state,” said Attorney General Cynthia Coffman. “It is vital that we work together in creating multisector solutions to help combat every level of this plaguing epidemic.”
Spreading the message about safe disposal
According to the findings, 69 percent of people were likely to take their medication to a safe disposal box. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Take Meds Back medication disposal program funds 121 safe disposal boxes in 58 counties around the state. The boxes are at pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement offices. A map of locations is online at www.TakeMedsBack.org.
About the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention
The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention coordinates Colorado’s statewide response to the prescription drug abuse epidemic, focusing on the opioid crisis. The Consortium works with stakeholders such as government agencies, community groups, law enforcement, and the medical community. The Consortium is part of the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.
For more information about the Consortium, visit www.CoRXConsortium.org. For information safe medication use, storage, and disposal, visit www.TakeMedsSeriously.org, the website for Colorado’s anti-prescription drug misuse public awareness campaign.
TakeMedsBack.org helps residents of Colorado safely dispose of unused and expired prescription medications. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s program provides financial support for disposal boxes at pharmacies, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies throughout the state. For more information, visit www.TakeMedsBack.org.