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Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team focus efforts on healthcare providers

PROVO, Utah (February 9, 2011) -- During January 2011, 23 pharmacists from across Utah County obtained additional training on how to help prevent prescription pain pill abuse among their clients. The Utah County Health Department worked with the Substance Misuse and Abuse Reduction Team (SMART) and the Utah Poison Control Center provide the trainings.

Utah has one of the highest rates of pain pill abuse in the nation. Local studies show healthcare providers too often give patients inadequate information on how to properly use, store, and dispose of these powerful drugs.

"This lack of education from healthcare providers has contributed to the lack of healthy respect for how easily individuals can misuse these strong and potentially addicting medications," said Kye Nordfelt, SMART Coordinator. "While extremely helpful in treating a patient's pain, if proper understanding and care are not applied when using these medications, there can be dangerous side effects."

"Our studies show that county residents admit to receiving too many pills in one prescription, sharing their pain pills with family members, and keeping leftover pain pills unsecured in medicine cabinets," said Nordfelt. "This availability makes it easy for teens and adults to abuse the pills."

The SMART presentations are designed to teach pharmacists how they can be part of the solution to prevent pain pill abuse by educating patients how to properly use, store, and dispose of pain pills. "We don't want people to be afraid of using what their doctor prescribes," said Nordfelt. "We just want individuals to understand and follow their doctor's prescribing guidelines."

Proper disposal of unused medications is also important as it reduces the availability of leftover pills. "They need to be disposed of in an environmentally safe way as well to prevent contamination of our lakes, streams and ground water, "said Toni Carpenter, UCHD environmental health education. "We currently have 11 drop off locations throughout Utah County where residents can properly dispose of their medications, as well as numerous take back www.MedicationDisposal.utah.gov or www.CleanOutTheCabinet.org.

SMART will continue to sponsor additional healthcare provider training in the coming months. "We will also soon be launching a media campaign to educate residents about the proper use of these drugs," said Nordfelt. "We can all work together to see a reduction in pain pill abuse in Utah County."