Facebook Twitter More...

SMART Utah County providing training to doctors/education to help prevent deaths locally

PROVO, Utah (July 2, 2013) -- According to a report released today from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18 women die every day of a prescription painkiller overdose in the US, more than 6,600 deaths in 2010. Prescription painkiller overdoses are an under-recognized and growing problem for women.

The July 2013 CDC Vital Signs (www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns) says that although men are still more likely to die of prescription painkiller overdoses, the gap between men and women is closing. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdose among women have risen more sharply than among men; since 1999 the percentage increase in deaths was more than 400% among women compared to 265% in men. This rise relates closely to increased prescribing of these drugs during the past decade.

In Utah County, 404 prescription overdose deaths took place from 2005 to 2012. The Utah County Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team (SMART) is working with local area prescribers to help address this growing concern, as well as trying to educate the public through the state's "Use only as prescribed" campaign. "The CDC reports that nation-wide, prescription pain pill overdose deaths in women is up," said Kye Nordfelt, SMART Coalition coordinator. "Utah County actually showing a slight decrease ... but any deaths are too many."

"When used properly, pain pills can greatly aid in the recovery process," said Dr. Stephen Nelson, MD, SMART coalition member. "In some cases, however, patients abuse or unknowingly misuse their prescriptions which can lead to addiction."

2005-2012 Female Prescription Overdose Death Rates in Utah County by Age
Prescription Pain Pill Death Rates Compared by Gender

Information compiled by SMART from data collected by the Utah Medical Examiner's Office.

SMART found in focus group and community studies that patients were often being over prescribed pain pills with little or no instruction on how to safely use, store, and dispose of leftover medication. A physician SMART interviewed said, "There are some doctors that donít want to get a follow-up phone call from a patient, so if you think they may need 10, you give them 20."

"Most physicians freely admitted the time spent counseling patients about prescription pain medication was minimal or sometimes nonexistent," said Nordfelt.

SMART worked with local physicians to create a training program to address prescribing practices and patient education. "The goal of the training is to provide doctors with tools that will help prevent pill abuse among their patients," said Nordfelt.

The Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing's (DOPL) Controlled Substance Database is one tool doctors can use. "This database is designed to help doctors and other prescribers spot individuals that are pill shopping, or going from one doc to another to get prescriptions to feed an addiction," said Nordfelt. DOPL will also report back to a physician's office if an individual is involved in a drug related DUI or overdose. SMARTís training also provides screening, educational tools, and treatment resources doctors can use to better serve patients.

Participants are also surveyed following the training by SMART representatives to evaluate its effectiveness. "Over 90 percent said they were spending more time with their patients, explaining the proper use of the patient's pain medication," said Nordfelt. "Over 80 percent said they were prescribing fewer pills to patients and they reported an increased use of the Controlled Substance Database."

With its recent success, SMART continues to provide more trainings. "We are glad to hear pain pill providers found the training helpful," said Nordfelt. "We also know there is much more that needs to be done to get this message out to providers. Community members can help SMART promote the training with their own dentists and doctors by going to our website at www.smartutahcounty.info and clicking on the "strategies." Nordfelt also encourages doctors interested in this presentation to contact SMART. The training is free of charge and offers upwards of 20 continuing medical education units.

Professionals interested in participating in the trainings are encouraged to contact Nordfelt at the Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Prevention (UCaDDAPT) at 801-851-7181.

Use Only As Directed is a statewide campaign designed to educated the public directly about the dangers of prescription medications. "We don't want to scare people from using them, but some people think that because their doctor gave them a pain prescription that they are completely without risk," said Nordfelt. "When used as directed, they are a powerful tool for patient comfort and recovery. However, if people use them differently -- such as sharing them with someone other than for whom the pain killers were prescription for -- there are some additional risks."

According to the 2008 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), more than one-third of Utahns had received a prescription for pain medication. "Many of these people keep their leftover medication, which can be a risk for misuse, abuse and unintended poisoning, "said Nordfelt. "Also, 90 percent reported obtaining a prescription pain medication, without a doctorís prescription, from a friend or family member."

SMART encourages safe storage and disposal of unused medication to prevent there misuse. "Medications should be kept locked away whenever possible," said Nordfelt. "They should certainly not be kept out in the medicine cabinet where they are easily accessible. People should keep them in their original bottles with the label and child-resistant cap, and keep track of how many pills are there so they know if any go missing." He also advises disposing of the pain killers when you are done with them. Nordfelt said many local police and law enforcement agencies will take them, or their are instructions for disposal at www.UseOnlyAsDirected.org.

As part of the Utah County Division of Substance Abuse, S.M.A.R.T Utah County is dedicated to the prevention of alcohol and prescription narcotic drug misuse and abuse among individuals living in Utah County. Established in 2008, SMART is composed of residents, elected officials, human service providers, law enforcement, educators, business representatives, and other members of the community. Individuals interested in participating in SMART are encouraged to contact Nordfelt at 801-851-7181, or by following SMART at www.facebook.com/SMART.UTAH.


2005-2012 Female Prescription Overdose Death Rates in Utah County by Age

Prescription Pain Pill Death Rates Compared by Gender