The U.S. Attorney's Office in San Diego has launched a month-long outdoor advertising and social media campaign designed to highlight the serious public health problems linked to prescription opiate use, it was announced Friday.
According to a recently issued report from the San Diego Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, continued widespread reliance on opiates poses serious risks to San Diegans.
The number of prescription-drug-related deaths, emergency room visits arising out of opiate use, and reported prescription misuse by adult and juvenile arrestees all increased from prior years.
While public health leaders and San Diego County Medical Society officials have been receptive to input on prescribing practices, medical consumers need to be educated as well.
"This outdoor advertising and social media campaign is designed to shift the culture and help people understand that pain pills are not a panacea," said U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy. "For many, prescription opiate use leads to physical and psychological dependence, heroin addiction, hypersensitivity to pain and a real risk of overdose."
This year, the U.S. Attorney's Office has filed several cases that enforce federal laws prohibiting unlawful distribution of controlled substances, including charges against a physician alleged to have traded pain pills for sex, indictments involving voluminous loads of fentanyl, and charges involving cross-border smuggling of counterfeit pain pills containing fentanyl, which is 40 times stronger and more deadly than heroin.
Law enforcement nationwide this year have reported higher fentanyl availability, seizures and known overdose deaths than at any other time since the drug's creation in 1959.
"Every seizure removes product from the market, and every successful prosecution removes distributors. But we cannot incarcerate our way out of the opiate crisis," Duffy said. "The public should be educated to understand that opiates alone are not a pain control plan. Because opiates carry significant risks, patients should explore alternatives with their doctors."