Dr. M. Bud Lateef is a Board Certified physician trained in pain management. He is a Physician Reviewer for Highmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield Insurance and has co-edited a chapter in a textbook regarding the treatment of pain in the elderly. Dr. Lateef is also the founder of a company called LOCKMED. LOCKMED designs products to restrict unauthorized access to prescription medication in an effort to help prevent prescription drug abuse. It is the goal of LOCKMED to raise awareness about the importance of safeguarding medications not only in offices of physicians and other medical professionals, but also in our homes. LOCKMED also donates lockboxes to those in need or to help support local organizations that are working to reduce the problem of prescription drug abuse in our communities, and works with a number of community drug coalitions and health departments nationwide.
We were able to reach Dr. Lateef and get his opinion on the current rising trend of prescription drug abuse.
TestCountry: Dr. Lateef, how dangerous is prescription drug abuse, and how prevalent is the problem in the United States today?
Dr. Lateef: Prescription drug abuse has become a major problem in our society, and has led to increases in emergency room visits and overdose deaths from addictions. According to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2.4 million Americans had abused prescription drugs the year before. Another study from the National Institute of Drug Abuse in 2010 revealed that 8% of high school seniors had abused Vicodin pain medication. Prescription drugs are the second most abused substances after marijuana, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2009 found that 16 million people ages 12 and older had used a prescription drug for non-medical purposes.
TestCountry: Are we doing enough as a society to fight against prescription drug abuse? Are you aware of any government actions to safeguard communities? If so, can you describe them? What actions should the government be taking?
Dr. Lateef: As a society, we can start to safeguard our medications in the home. This is because we are seeing changes in the demographics that are bringing in more medication to the home. As we are aging as a population, we are requiring more medications to keep us healthy and living longer. We have homes with multiple generations living together. We are ordering more medications at a time, through programs that allow you to mail order 90-day supplies, for example. So all of this had led to more medications in the home with the potential for unauthorized access to prescription drugs.
There are many efforts underway to help safeguard communities at the local, county, state, and federal levels, as this has become a national problem affecting many communities. The White House ONDCP has laid out an important national strategy with the Prescription Drug Abuse Plan which calls for 4 major efforts: Education, Monitoring, Proper Medication Disposal, and Enforcement.
TestCountry: LockMed is affiliated with a number of community coalitions. Are you aware of any actions on local levels to fight prescription drug abuse that our readers could investigate and perhaps implement in their own hometown?
Dr. Lateef: Yes. We work directly with hardworking organizations such as the National Coalition for Prescription Drug Abuse and Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse who help local groups organize educational events to raise awareness on safeguarding medications in the home. We also work with drug task forces by providing medication lockboxes for their educational events. The groups can be accessed via the web at www.ncapda.org, www.mapdaonline.org, or by visiting our website at www.lockmed.com.
TestCountry: Are most people who abuse prescription drugs abusing their own prescriptions?
Dr. Lateef: You might be surprised. According to a report completed in 2006 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, 70% of people who abuse prescription drugs admit to getting them directly from friends or family while only 5% got them from over the Internet or from a drug dealer.
TestCountry: Would you recommend a person lock up their medication even if they do not have any children?
Dr. Lateef: Yes. This is because there could still be unauthorized access to medications by friends, co-workers, or people who work around the home. Even preventing ingestion by pets can be a goal of locking up medications. Keeping medications locked up can also keep your medical history private from others.
TestCountry: How should someone dispose of unused prescription drugs?
Dr. Lateef: They can visit the website www.disposemymeds.org to find out facilities closest to you that can help you dispose of unused prescription drugs. There are also local and national drug take-back days that you can find out by calling your local pharmacy.
TestCountry: Can you describe some signs that a concerned parent or friend could look for to determine whether or not a loved one was participating in the abuse of prescription drugs?
Dr. Lateef: This is a very important subject and one that really depends on what the drug being abused is. But, general signs of abuse are changes in behavior, a decline in school performance, extreme changes in friends or “hang out” locations, and changes in appetite.
TestCountry: 8. In your opinion, what is the bottom line on the danger and rising prevalence of prescription drug abuse?
Dr. Lateef: Unauthorized access to medications can lead to addiction and overdose. So, for me, the bottom line is that we must start to safeguard our meds in some form whether they are in our homes, our purse, or while we travel.
You can find out more about LOCKMED at www.lockmed.com. We encourage you to investigate ways within your community to safely dispose of your medications.