Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing U.S. drug problem, according to the introduction.

Rx Abuse, Drugged Driving Top 2011 Control Priorities

They are two of the policy priorities identified in the administration's new strategy unveiled July 11. It warns that drug-induced deaths now exceed motor vehicle crash-related fatalities in 17 states and Washington, D.C.

Reducing prescription drug abuse and actions to reduce drugged driving are two of the three policy priorities singled out in the 2011 National Drug Control Strategy document that Gil Kerlikowske, director of National Drug Control Policy for the Obama administration, unveiled July 11. It calls prescription drug abuse the nation's fastest-growing drug problem.

"Data from the last 2 years show young people's attitudes about the dangers associated with drugs are weakening, particularly toward marijuana and prescription drugs," the introduction states. "When youth attitudes weaken, increases in use are never far behind."

"Data show that, despite recent increases in drug use, the percentage of Americans using illicit drugs is half the rate it was 30 years ago, cocaine production in Colombia has dropped by almost two-thirds since 2001, and increasing numbers of non-violent offenders are being diverted into treatment instead of jail. Previous national efforts to reduce smoking, drunk driving, and other public health threats have shown that sustained and balanced approaches can work to significantly improve public health and safety. The Administration's National Drug Control Strategy provides a roadmap to build on these past successes," it says.

The document points out that drug-induced deaths now outnumber gunshot deaths in America and exceed motor vehicle crash-related fatalities in 17 states and Washington, D.C., as a cause of death. "In addition, 1 in every 10 cases of HIV diagnosed in 2007 was transmitted via injection drug use, and drug use itself fosters risky behavior contributing to the spread of infectious diseases nationwide. Furthermore, studies of children in foster care find that two-thirds to three-quarters of cases involve parental substance abuse. Also, low-achieving high school students are more likely to use marijuana and other substances than high-achieving students. Finally, Americans with drug or alcohol disorders spend more days in the hospital and require more expensive care than they would absent such disorders. This contributes to almost $32 billion in medical costs per year6—a burden that our communities, employers, and small businesses cannot afford to bear."

The rate of prescription pain reliever overdose deaths has risen fivefold since 1990 and has never been higher, withe prescription drugs now involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, it says.

"Drug use affects every sector of society that is vital to a strong America, straining our economy, our health care and criminal justice systems, and endangering the futures of our young people," said Kerlikowske. "This roadmap to reducing drug use and its consequences will require teamwork and collaboration that draws on the strengths of the prevention, treatment, law enforcement, criminal justice, and recovery communities, as well as parents all across America."

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