As I hope many of you know, March has been designated as Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month since 2014. The California State Senate adopted the resolution after it became apparent the Opioid Epidemic had made its way into California. In 2009 alone, it was estimated that 22.5 million Americans aged 12 and older were abusing prescription medications. That year there were 1.2 million emergency department visits related to the misuse of pharmaceuticals; in increase of 98.4% from 2004, only 5 years earlier. The most disturbing aspect of the Opioid Epidemic though, comes from the fact that most people receive the medications being abused from a family or friend.

Trends in advertising and pushes made my pharmaceutical giants like Purdue Pharma increased the quantity of opioid painkillers prescribed. Since the adoption of March as an awareness month, several robust initiatives have come into existence thanks to funding from SAMSA. The focus has been on the most vulnerable and traditionally underserved sections of the populations. One such program aims to help mothers and pregnant women with their addictions, providing them access to Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT). Helping a parent overcome their addiction helps to break the cycle of addiction that children of substance use suffers can fall into. Other MAT programs target incarcerated individuals who have addictions, as refusing to treat an addiction during incarceration often leads to the prisoner relapsing in jail or once released from jail. Such lack of treatment means that they cannot integrate successfully back into society, and feeds them back into the prison pipeline.

Yet another program helps those of American Indian ancestry overcome addiction in their own communities. Native American reservations often receive no investment from large businesses or government gentrification projects. As such, rates of substance abuse in American Indian communities are far higher than the national average, with those suffering from Substance Use Disorder (SUD) being concentrated in those communities. Since naming March Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month, there has been statewide success in reducing addiction rates, and many thousands of California residents have received help overcoming their addictions.