Q. Does the U.S. have a problem with abuse of over-the-counter and prescription medicines?
A. Over-the-counter and prescription medicines save lives and aid in healthy living. Unfortunately, there are a growing number of cases of children and adults abusing prescription drugs to get high or to lose weight. Abuse of prescription drugs is the nation's fastest growing drug abuse trend. The misuse of over-the-counter drugs by teens also is a growing problem. We need to raise awareness of the dangers of over-the-counter and prescription medicine abuse.
Q. What have you done to fight this kind of drug abuse?
A. I serve as the co-chair of the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. In this position, I've been able to develop legislation to help stop medicine abuse and address other drug problems in Iowa and nationwide.
I co-sponsored the Methamphetamine Production Prevention Act, which became law on October 14, 2008. This bill helped states create electronic logbook systems to monitor sales of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in many nasal and sinus decongestants, stimulants and anti-drowsiness medications that also is the key precursor chemical in the manufacture of illegal methamphetamine.
I am currently a co-sponsor of the Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act of 2009, which would curb what is an alarming rise in teen misuse of cough and cold medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan. This legislation would regulate the sale of its bulk form and prohibit the sale of dextromethorphan-containing products to buyers under 18 years old. It's a move that's been taken already, voluntarily by several major retailers. The Dextromethorphan Abuse Reduction Act would also provide funding for prevention and educational programs to combat over-the-counter and prescription drug abuse.
I cosponsored the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act that passed and was signed into law last month. It makes it easier for communities to establish prescription drug disposal or "take back" programs and allows nursing homes to dispose of residents' old medicine, which will help cut off access to left over prescription drugs that can be easily accessed and abused.
Separately, many years ago, I founded Face It Together, a not-for-profit organization that provides information, education, and encouragement to Iowans fighting drug abuse. Now known as Partnership for a Drug Free Iowa Face it Together, the organization is based on the notion that making Iowa communities drug-free is up to all Iowans. Partnership for a Drug Free Iowa Face it Together is at work today and consists of representatives from the business, medical, law enforcement, treatment, prevention, media, religious, school and government communities who come together to analyze the problem and potential solutions.
Just like with illegal drugs, it takes a comprehensive effort on all fronts to deal with the problem of prescription drug abuse. Our next generation will be much better off if we can prevent and bring an end to this abuse.