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Press Release

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Attorney General Issues Opioid Report Making Policy and Legislative Recommendations to Address Prescription Painkiller Abuse

Attorney General Lori Swanson today issued a report on opioid prescription painkillers that makes wide-ranging legislative and policy recommendations to improve and build on Minnesota’s response to the growing prescription painkiller epidemic.

“Growing addiction to prescription opioid painkillers is devastating families from all walks of life across all parts of our state. We need all hands on deck to push forward solutions, which must involve those in health care, the criminal justice system, patients, families, and policymakers,” said Attorney General Swanson.

The Epidemic

The Report, entitled “Opioids: Preventing and Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse,” notes that the United States has less than five percent of the world’s population but uses 80 percent of the world’s painkillers. Prescription opioid painkillers are controlled substances that are sold under brand names like OxyContin, Percocet, or Vicodin. In 2012, 259 million painkillers were prescribed in the United States, enough for every adult to have a bottle of pills. The Centers for Disease Control has called prescription drug abuse the fastest growing drug problem in the United States.

Sales of opioid painkillers have quadrupled since 1999 and so have the number of overdoses from prescription opioids. Nearly 2 million Americans are estimated to be addicted to prescription painkillers. More than 40 people die every day in the U.S. from a prescription opioid overdose. Every 25 minutes a baby is born in this country with opioid withdrawal. More than 1,000 people receive emergency room treatment each day in the U.S. for misused prescription opioids. Withdrawal symptoms from opioid addiction are particularly harsh, causing many patients to relapse.

Nearly 80 percent of heroin users previously abused prescription painkillers. They often turn to heroin or other street drugs when painkillers become too expensive. Prescription opioids contribute to more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. Prescription painkiller abuse has a significant human and economic toll. For example, prescription opioid abuse costs about $25.6 billion in lost workplace productivity each year.

The Report

Attorney General Swanson said the report relies on a multitude of interviews and contributions from health care professionals, emergency room personnel, government officials, and victims of the opioid epidemic as well as an extensive review of other states’ responses to the epidemic. She added that while the recommendations alone will not solve the prescription opioid epidemic, they hopefully mark the beginning steps of proposals to strengthen Minnesota’s response to the epidemic.

Recommendations in the report (on pages 29-36) include the following:

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National Public Health Award Given for Opioid Report

The National Conference of State Legislatures has given its 2017 Notable Documents Award in the category of Public Health to a report issued last November by the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office entitled, Opioids: Preventing and Addressing Prescription Drug Abuse.
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