The White House drug czar and Florida and Kentucky attorneys general told a congressional committee that prescription drug abuse is “a national crisis” and efforts to fight it will falter without better cooperation between states and better education of the medical community and the public about its dangers, McClatchy Newspapers report. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said the issue was “not on the radar screen” until recently. It’s an economic problem as well, costing health care providers, employers, and taxpayers $56 billion in 2007, he said. “We weren’t paying attention to it,” Kerlikowske told the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade. “That was a huge mistake.”
About 100 people die every day from drug overdoses. While high-profile examples such as Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson get the most attention, it’s a nationwide problem. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said prescription drug abuse has a devastating impact on poor, rural communities, particularly in eastern Kentucky, where it accounts for a large percentage of crime. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said the epidemic has other consequences. At a Tampa hospital, 20 percent of babies were born addicted to prescription drugs. “Imagine the worst addict you see on TV going through withdrawals — that’s how these babies come into this world,” she said.