COMPLETE COVERAGE: National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit

By: Tanner Hesterberg and Matthew Rand Email
By: Tanner Hesterberg and Matthew Rand Email
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WYMT)- Below you will find complete coverage of the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit. WYMT's Tanner Hesterberg and Matthew Rand are at the summit and will bring you coverage of the event.
Prescription Drug Abuse and the Economy
By: Tanner Hesterberg
4/24/14 6pm

The human toll of prescription drug abuse is well-documented. But it's economic impact was the subject of this round table.

Leaders from across the country shared stories of how drug abuse impacts them financially.

"We talked about things like healthcare costs police costs drug courts incarceration. Down to such areas as looking at kids living in houses where substance abuse has been a problem and what their performance is like in school relative to their peers."

Factors that can lead to high unemployment.

"In some counties they cannot only not attract employers because of the bad reputation that their county has or their town, they can't find enough workers to staff the jobs that they have."

This discussion and the dozens of others like it at the summit have organizers calling the event a success.

"A lot of great talk and I'm hopeful they can take what they've learned here at this summit back to their communities and start to make a difference."

And organizers are hoping to build on this year's record attendance at next year's summit.

More than 11 hundred people from 46 states, plus Canada and New Zealand, attended the summit. It was co-sponsored by Operation Unite.

Addicted Born Babies
By: Matthew Rand
4/24/14 4pm

Officials at the summit say opioid abuse hurts more than the person taking the drug. They say one of the side effects for society is the issue of babies born addicted due to their mother's drug use.

At a round table discussion Thursday, health leaders from several states discussed the issue of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS.

"When you combine opiate addiction and abuse with unplanned pregnancies, it has incredible consequences for communities throughout the region."

Babies diagnosed with NAS require additional care in the first year of life, which officials say can cost eight times a healthy baby.

"We don't have enough data yet to be able to tell how much it's going to cost everybody in society for the long term care of these babies."

Officials say the Appalachian region's drug epidemic is leading to more babies born with NAS. They say expectant mothers need to know the risk.

"They need to be concerned about their babies. They need to be concerned with themselves during their pregnancy. That's the first big issue."

Officials hope this summit will produce strategies solutions to prevent this disease.

Officials say if more states required reporting of NAS, that would help them assess the full scope of the problem.
Stars Take the Stage At Drug Summit
By: Tanner Hesterberg
April 23, 2014- 6 p.m.

People attending the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta will be treated to a little star power tonight. Actress Melanie Griffith will share her story of addiction and recovery. Earlier Griffith sat down with us and talked about her battle with prescription painkillers. She is delivering the keynote address tonight to end the second day of the summit.

You know her face from the big screen, but Melanie Griffith's recovery from drug addiction is what brings her to the summit. She told us, “I think it's really important that people know everyone from every walk of life there are many addicts and alcoholics in our country and we all need help.”

Griffith says her biggest issue was admitting she was addicted. “You don't want to be an alcoholic. You don't want to be a drug addict. But if you're afraid to ask for help because of the stigma and the shame of it, then it just stays the way that it is.”

Her journey is an inspiration to many, including Congressman Hal Rogers. He said, “She has an incredible story to tell. Addiction. Recovery. And she's so brave to share that story openly with all of us here.”

A story they hope that will help others beat prescription drug addiction.

Griffith will be delivering the keynote speech of the evening session just after 6:00. We will have highlights from that speech a little later tonight.

Keynote Speaker Governor Steve Beshear
By: Matthew Rand
4/23/14 6pm

One of the keynote speakers at this year's summit was Gov. Steve Beshear, who explained how Kentucky is fighting back against prescription drug abuse.

Beshear says Kentucky House Bill 1, which imposed greater restrictions on the prescribing of certain drugs, has been critical to halting so-called pill mills.

The governor says the Affordable Care Act is helping drug addicts get the help they need to get clean.

"Now with the affordable care act, that's going to allow any Kentuckian who has this issue to be able to get good treatment, to be able to get back on their feet, and conquer this problem."
Congressional Panel Members
By: Matthew Rand
4/23/14 4pm

Enthusiasm among attendees remains high here at this year's summit, everyone looking for better ways to respond to prescription drug abuse. On day two, folks heard from Kentucky's own Governor Steve Beshear.

The stakes are high.

"In the past decade, 125,000 Americans have been killed by this epidemic, and it's cost our healthcare system more than 500 billion dollars."

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, joined Governor Steve Beshear for a Q&A session about how Kentucky is fighting drug addiction.

"We passed legislation in 2012 with the help of Senate President Robert Stivers and Speaker Greg Stumbo, coming together in a bipartisan manner to really crack down on the pill mills, run them out of the state and we've done that."

The bipartisan theme would extend to a panel later in the day featuring members of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse.

"It costs us all and if we don't stop it early and we don't put the emphasis on prevention at an early stage then it's going to cost us all as a society."

By sharing ideas and finding out what is working to fight prescription abuse in other areas, officials here say we can conquer this problem.
Cracking Down on Unlawful Rx Marketing and Realities of Rx Abuse
By: Tanner Hesterberg and Matthew Rand
April 4-22-14 11pm

More than 1,100 people were in attendance and they certainly had a lot to talk about on day one.

Federal officials from several agencies discussed ways in which they are addressing what the CDC has called an epidemic.

The National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit set an attendance record in this, its third year. Representative Hal Rogers says the annual summit is leading to positive change.

"The federal drug administration, frankly due to these summits of the past two years, began to issue rulings saying you can't bring out an Opioid pill unless it can't be crushed".

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, says new therapies could one day allow doctors to rescue someone from an overdose.

"We're working on such wild crazy ideas as a vaccine that would actually make people immune from opioid abuse ... We have a vaccine in the animal stage for heroin."

But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and officials urge everyone to guard their prescribed medication.

"The statistics show that most young people become addicted to prescription medicines only because of the family medicine cabinet that's got forgotten pills in there".

And this multiple-pronged attack of prevention, education, and advanced treatment is what officials here hope will save lives.

Federal officials are a big part of the discussion here, but folks traveled from 46 states and the District of Columbia.

A large contingent from Kentucky including Attorney General Jack Conway, who spoke at two sessions Tuesday.

Attorney General Jack Conway appeared at an afternoon session with attorneys General from other states before speaking at an evening session about the progress Kentucky is making in battling drug abuse.

"When I became attorney General the data showed one in die of our high school students was using prescription pills for recreational purposes. Recent data shows that has declined tremendously. We were the third or fourth most medicated state in the country according to data. We have slid back toward the middle of the pack, which is good."

And Anti-drug officials credit this summit for helping reduce prescription drug abuse.

"This summit I think is the best thing we've done on abuse of prescription drugs, because it's got people from all over the country and in fact all over the world now understanding what drug abuse really is."

But officials here want to see a higher rate of progress in the future.

Wednesday morning Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear will be on hand, along with dozens of other officials and even an appearance from actress Melanie Griffith.
Conway says progress being made in fight against drug abuse
By: Tanner Hesterberg
April 22, 2014- 6 p.m.

Kentucky's Attorney General says progress is being made in the battle against prescription drug abuse. Jack Conway made the comment today during a speech at the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit in Atlanta.

Attorney General Jack Conway's speech was one of dozens at the summit on Tuesday. More than 1,100 anti-drug officials attended customized sessions on how to fight the problem.

Attorney General Jack Conway says the tide is turning in the battle against prescription drug abuse, but there's still a long way to go. Conway said, “Drugs have probably fueled 70 percent of the crime in Eastern Kentucky over the last 8-10 years with the vast majority of that being prescription painkillers.”

Conway joined attorneys general from Indiana and Georgia who are also battling prescription pill abuse in their states.
Greg Zoeller, the Attorney General of Indiana, said at a session at the summit, “We were finding people who we're getting their prescription going to the pharmacist having the prescription filled and then sometimes literally in the parking lot we're selling their prescription pills.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Ole said his state has been aggressive with doctors over prescribing pain killers. “It is common for our medical board to toss the licenses of doctors who over prescribe so the medical board has become a big proponent of getting rid of the few doctors that are drug dealing rather than practicing responsible medicine.”

And Conway says this summit shows the need for states to work together. “Prescription drug monitoring systems like our KASPER system need to be interconnected because if you're in Eastern Kentucky you can go to Tennessee Virginia West Virginia and get pills pretty easily. That's the reason we need to have modern interconnected prescription drug monitoring programs.”

He and others at the summit are hoping to make more progress in the fight against drug abuse.
Conway told us afterward he was disappointed Kentucky's General Assembly did not pass the heroin bill and says he would like to see a special session to pass it.

Federal Response to Drug Abuse Epidemic
By: Matthew Rand
April 22, 2014 - 4 p.m.

The National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit continued Tuesday in Atlanta, Georgia.

Federal officials discussed ways in which they are working to prevent prescription drug addiction.

Officials say while Opioid Narcotics can be extremely helpful in helping people with severe pain, they carry great risk for abuse.
Researchers say they are looking into ways to fight addiction and save lives.

Federal officials met to discuss ways in which they are responding to a prescription drug abuse epidemic that takes 100 lives every day in the U.S.

Michael Boticelli says, "these are not just statistics ... they are mothers, they are fathers, they are sisters, they are brothers, and they are our friends".

The panel included a number of leading researchers, including Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes for health.

"Some of the things we're doing include developing new kinds of pain medicine that would not be susceptible to misuse or addiction."

Researchers are also learning more about the behavioral roots of prescription drug abuse.

"What leads many individuals to start to prefer this type of prescription drug as opposed to the classic illicit substances, because of the misconception that because they are prescribed by a physician they have to be safe."

And the more we learn, says Representative Hal Rogers, the more it will affect policy.

"I think these summits, the most dramatic thing they've done, is educate the country about this problem, and now we're pouncing on the problem trying to solve it."

And hopefully one day make pain pill addiction a thing of the past.
National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit set to open on Tuesday
by: Tanner Hesterberg
April 21, 2014

Hundreds of leaders from across the country are meeting this week at the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit, looking for better ways to fight what they call a growing problem. The three-day conference officially kicks off Tuesday, but attendees were treated to a special movie screening with a little star power Monday night.

More than 1,100 people are at the conference from 46 states, and even some from New Zealand and Canada. All of them are coming together to fight a common problem.

Organizers of the National Prescription Drug Abuse Summit marked the event's third year Monday evening.

Dan Smoot, President of Operation UNITE says, “We believe this to be an epidemic. We believe it deserves national attention. So that's what the prescription drug abuse summit does is being national leaders together.”

Attendees watched a special screening of “Halfway Home,” a documentary about soldiers returning from war who become addicted to prescription drugs and other substances.

Staff Sergeant Tommy Rieman who is in the film said, “The point of the film is to show that there are so many service men and women out there who need help and the point is I want them to reach out for help and say I need help.”

Actress Melissa Fitzgerald, from the political drama “The West Wing”, helped make the film. She told us, “Most of our service members are strengthened by their service. Far too many are struggling when they return home. And we need to be there for the ones who are struggling. And we need to support them in ways that work.”

Ways that leaders here at the Summit will try to improve this week.

Another famous actress Melanie Griffith is due to speak at the conference later this week. Other big names expected here include Francis Collins, the director of the national institutes of health, Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the FDA, and Kentucky's attorney general Jack Conway will also speak. We'll have complete coverage here on WYMT.

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