FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2011
SCHUMER URGES ST. JOHN FISHER PHARMACY SCHOOL TO HELP IN FIGHT AGAINST PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE BY WORKING WITH LOCAL HIGH SCHOOLS TO EDUCATE ROCHESTER YOUTH; 55% DO NOT BELIEVE USING PRESCRIPTION DRUGS POSES A MAJOR RISK TO THEM
Schumer Program Would Enlist NY Pharmacy Schools like St. John Fisher School in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse by Sending Pharmacy Students Into Rochester Middle and High Schools to Educate Youth About Dangers of Prescription Drugs
According to Recent Data from Center for Disease Controls, Drug Deaths, Propelled by an Increase in Prescription Drug Abuse, Now Outnumber Traffic Fatalities in the United States – Over 1220 Prescription Drug Abuse Cases in Rochester-Finger Lakes Region This Year
Earlier This Year Over 175 Students At Pittsford Sutherland Alone Admitted To Using Rx Drugs To Get High
Today, at the Pittsford Sutherland High School, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, urged the St. John Fisher pharmacy school to consider launching a new program that would send pharmacy students into Rochester area middle and high schools and to teen groups at local community organizations like the YMCA to help educate teens about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. Schumer’s call comes amidst an ever-deepening prescription drug epidemic in the Rochester Finger Lakes region, and across the nation, that has resulted in rising levels of abuse and has manifested itself in numerous pharmacy robberies, some of which have proven deadly. Schumer’s proposal comes as statistics show that prescription drug abuse is on the rise among teens and that 55% of teenagers do not see a great risk in using prescription drugs. In a recent self-survey, 178 students at Pittsford Sutherland admitted they used prescription medication to get high, and 114 admitted to using over the counter drugs for the same purpose at some point in their lives. Other local schools who participated in the survey program have reported similar results. Throughout the Rochester Finger Lakes Region this year, there have been 1224 cases of prescription drug abuse reported to the Upstate Poison Control Center. Schumer notes that St. John Fisher already has a tradition of community service among its faculty and student body and said the school’s pharmacy students are uniquely qualified to educate youth about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.
“Combating prescription drugs abuse is a multi-pronged war that requires not only greater penalties for those peddling the drugs, but greater education for our Rochester youth,” said Schumer. “Statistics show that our young people do not see prescription drug abuse in the same light as they do other illicit drugs and we must use every tool available to change that perception. The more than 1200 cases of prescription drug abuse in the area this year absolutely have to be a wakeup call. We have to roll back this epidemic. Pharmacy students like those at St. John’s Fisher provide the perfect treatment for this dangerous diagnosis. As the professionals who will one day dispense and educate consumers about drugs that they’ve been prescribed, pharmacy students are uniquely qualified to educate Rochester youth about the dangers of prescription drugs abuse.”
Schumer was joined by the principal of Pittsford Sutherland High School Liz Konar, the school’s Prevention Coordinator Ann Bayer, the Rochester YMCA CEO George Romell and local Pittsford Sutherland high school students who participate in the YMCA’s Teen Leaders program as he announces his push to enlist Pharmacy school students like St. John Fisher’s students in the fight against prescription drug abuse.
The Rochester-Finger Lakes region is feeling the effects of a prescription drug abuse epidemic sweeping the country. In the region in 2011, there have been 1,224 cases of prescription drug abuse reported to the Upstate Poison Control Center, which includes cases of drug use and misuse, as well as suspected suicides. In addition, the Pittsford school district requires students to answer a survey related to their drug use. Results showed an uptick in drug usage since it was administered in 2009. The self-report survey revealed that 178, or 10% of Pittsford High School students reported the use of a prescription drug to get high, up 1% from the 2009 survey. Also, 114 of these high school students reported using over the counter drugs to get high, up 2.5% from 2009. National data shows more than 70% of the students who abuse prescription painkillers report getting them from family or friends, and 40% of 12th graders said that prescription drugs are easy to get. To help address this, the district has begun partnering with seven other Monroe County suburban districts in distributing a pamphlet to parents to build better awareness of prescription drug abuse in the region’s students. Schumer applauded the Pittsford school district for its proactive approach thus far and noted that this new program with local pharmacy students is an ideal next step.
Many experts believe that one of the major causes of prescription drug abuse among American youth is a lack of education. The Partnership for a Drug Free America reported in their 2010 Partnership/Metlife Foundation Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), that 55% of teenagers do not believe there is a great risk to taking pills that are not prescribed to them. According to reports of a roundtable in New York this year on prescription drug abuse, Tom Hendrick, from the Partnership for a Drug Free American, suggested that as many as 70% of teens don’t think there is a risk to taking prescription pills.
The proliferation of prescription drug abuse is having a massive impact on public health. Recent data from the Center for Disease Control shows that for the first time ever, drug deaths, propelled by an increase in prescription drug abuse, now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States. According to an analysis by the Los Angeles Times, public health policies and education have improved in traffic safety over the course of the last 30 years, while public health and education programs for prescription drug abuse have not. In 2009 there were a total of 37,485 drug-related deaths in the United States compared to 36,284 traffic-related deaths. The LA Times noted drug deaths have more than doubled over the last decade and that every 14 minutes in the United States, someone dies at the hands of drugs. In nearby Ontario County, the Ontario County Sheriff’s office reports cases of prescription drug abuse have increased significantly in the past five years. The county Sheriff’s Office handles about 300 drug-related cases annually, of which about half now involve prescription drug abuse.
In an effort to combat this growing abuse of prescription drugs among Rochester’s youth, Schumer today urged St. John Fisher pharmacy students to consider establishing a new program that would have pharmacy students educate local middle and high school students and local teen groups like the YMCA about the risks of abusing prescription drugs. Schumer noted that in addition to their expertise that pharmacy students bring to the table, having college students interact with teenagers about the dangers of prescription drug abuse may have a greater impact on youth because of their closeness in age.
Schumer’s effort to have local pharmacy students join the fight has come on top of full-throttled effort to increase penalties for pharma-theft, working to shut down illegal online pharmacies, and increased training for those who prescribe the drugs.
A copy of the letter Schumer sent to St. John Fisher’s Wegman School of Pharmacy can be found below.
Dear Dean Swigart,
I’m writing to enlist your help in an effort to help educate our children about the dangers of prescription drugs. Prescription drug abuse is becoming a full-blown epidemic in the Rochester Finger Lakes region as well as across the nation. In addition to a number of local pharmacy robberies in recent years and illegal prescription narcotic drug operations, according to the Upstate Poison Control Center, throughout the Rochester Finger Lakes Region this year there have been 1224 cases of reported prescription drug abuse. Indeed, national data has now revealed that prescription medications are now the second most abused drug after marijuana and recent data from the Center of Disease Control shows that for the first time ever, drug deaths, propelled by an increase in prescription drug abuse, now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States.
Sadly, one of the fastest growing demographics in prescription drug abuse is youth. For example in a recent bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Pittsford School District in April 2011 178 students at Pittsford Sutherland admitted they used prescription medication to get high, and 114 admitted to using over the counter drugs for the same purpose at some point in their lives. To help address these trends, districts like Pittsford recently teamed up with other school districts across the region to help educate parents and students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse. However, more needs to be done.
Many experts believe that one of the major causes of prescription drug abuse among American youth is a lack of education. The Partnership for a Drug Free America reported that 55% of teenagers do not believe there is a great risk to taking pills that are not prescribed to them. The increase self-reporting of prescription drug abuse among local teens means that prevention efforts aimed at youth in middle and high school are especially crucial.
I’ve been fighting this growing prescription drug epidemic on a number of fronts, including increasing penalties for pharma-theft, shutting down pill mills and online pharmacies that sell drugs to customers without a prescription, and increasing training for doctors to identify addicts and help ward off so-called “doctor-shopping.” However, it is clear that we need to attack prescription drug abuse by also educating our children, at an early age, about the dangers of prescription drugs.
That is why I am urging you to consider an initiative for your pharmacy programs that would send pharmacy students out into middle and high schools and teen groups like those run by the Rochester YMCA to educate youth about the risks and dangers of prescription drug abuse. By increasing awareness among our children, at an early age, your college can help us attack the growing prescription drug crisis in our local communities. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple solution to this growing crisis. If we are truly going to have an impact and reduce the level of abuse and its resultant crime, we need to ensure that education, at all levels, is a key part of our strategy.
It’s my hope that St. John Fisher’s Wegman School of Pharmacy would consider putting in place such a program to help the effort to reduce prescription drug abuse throughout the country. I know St. John’s Fisher already has a tradition of community service among its faculty and student body and many have shared their time and expertise in similar efforts. My staff will be in touch with you shortly to facilitate a pathway for local pharmacy students to partner with local schools and teen organizations on this endeavor and I thank you in advance for your consideration.