National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week is a national health observance week to dispel the myths surrounding drugs and alcohol that the American youth seems to be endlessly encountering. Beginning January 22<sup>-</sup>28, 2018, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse (NIDA) will be stimulating educational events in communities around the country to teach teenagers what we know about drug use and addiction from a scientific standpoint.
You might be wondering how your pharmacy really fits into this national health observance week… we can explain. First, let’s dive into some statistics surrounding the United States and prescription medication. U.S. residents make up roughly 5% of the world’s population, yet we consume 75% of the world’s prescription drugs and 99% of the world’s hydrocodone<sup>1</sup>. It goes without saying that that’s a largely disproportionate population to medication ratio… so what can we do to ensure that only for patients that actually need those medications are getting them?
Pharmacists are a Big. Deal. You are the primary, if not only, healthcare professionals on the forefront of counteracting prescription drug abuse. DEA regulations have given pharmacists the same responsibility as prescribers when it comes to preventing prescription drug abuse. In your years of pharmacy experience, you’ve probably encountered a patient that became irritated when they couldn’t receive a certain prescription due to time constraints, insurance coverage, or some other reason. While many patients will be innocently agitated by this process, it can be a warning sign that a patient is far too dependent on their medication.
When something seems off about a patient and their medication usage, it’s your job to identify this patient’s risk for abusing medication. Do your due diligence — contact the prescriber or other pharmacies that have filled that patient’s prescriptions, and pay attention to the patient’s habits and demeanor. With more information, you can make an informed decision to dispense or withhold the medication.
Something PrescribeWellness often emphasizes is the evolving role of the pharmacist. We believe in moving from a pill-centric to a patient-centric model, meaning that your pharmacy will shift to embody the patient’s overall health, instead of focusing on dispensing medication alone. This means taking a patient’s dangerous habits into our realm of responsibility so that the patient can achieve optimal health. The evolving role for pharmacists represents expanding opportunities to address prescription drug abuse. Pharmacists can and should make the shift to be more engaged in caring for and educating their patients to ensure they stray from the downward spiral of prescription drug abuse.