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The White House
For Immediate Release

Statement from White House Drug Policy Acting Director on Promising New Data on Youth and Opioid Misuse

Yesterday, the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a leader in the field of youth substance use prevention, released new data indicating that we are making progress in our efforts to reverse the opioid epidemic. The 2013 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), showed that the non-medical use of prescription medications among youth has remained stable for three consecutive years, indicating that we may be reversing the dangerous trend of prescription painkiller misuse.

Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, was participating in an annual training institute hosted by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), one of the largest gatherings of youth drug use prevention advocates in the country. In response to the news, he released the following statement:

“The misuse of opioids – a class of drug that includes prescription painkillers and heroin – has devastated families and towns across the Nation. In 2011, nearly 17,000 people died as a result of overdoses involving prescription opioids, and many more developed opioid-related substance use disorders that damaged their health and dimmed their potential. The Obama Administration has been laser-focused on this problem from its earliest days, so I am encouraged to see data from a trusted organization indicating that fewer young people are risking their health and lives by misusing prescription painkillers.

In spite of these promising trends, the rate of youth drug use – and the social, economic and health costs it inflicts – still remain unacceptably high. Guided by our 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, we have taken action to reduce opioid misuse by educating the public about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs, encouraging every state to adopt prescription drug monitoring programs, providing safe, environmentally-friendly drug disposal options, and taking steps to reduce illegal prescribing practices.

Because we know that nearly 70% of people who abused a pain reliever in the past year got those drugs from a family member or friend the last time they abused them, we can help curb the opioid epidemic if we keep unneeded, unused drugs out of the medicine cabinet. So, we are working hard to get the word out to prescribers: while opioid painkillers can be effective pain-management tools, they are highly addictive and should be prescribed with great care. In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers -- enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

We will continue to work with our partners in the medical community to ensure that doctors receive proper training on how and when to prescribe opioids, but we also know that parents are still one of the biggest influencers in a child’s decision not to misuse prescription drugs. In Orlando, I was inspired by the passion and resiliency of parents and kids from across the country who have dedicated themselves to preventing drug use among America’s young people. This announcement shows their efforts over the past several years have begun to pay off, and that when parents speak to their children about the dangers of illicit drug use, they listen.”