Injury Prevention and Behavioral Health

Preventing Prescription Drug Misuse, Abuse, and Diversion


  • Non-medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers is a matter of serious public health concern. Several states report more deaths due to prescription drug overdoses than from motor vehicle crashes. Prescription drugs are now involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. With proper use, adherence, and medical supervision, prescription opioids help people with chronic pain manage their symptoms, maintain productive lifestyles and make positive societal contributions. Misusing opioids yields deleterious health effects, including cyclical drug dependence, continued abuse, and death.

    State health officials acknowledge this issue and have demonstrated leadership in responding to this evolving crisis. ASTHO recognizes the importance of exploring multilevel interventions and policy strategies to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with prescription drug misuse at the population-level, while judiciously considering issues of effective pain treatment options at the individual and community levels. Given the recent large-scale increases in prescription drug overdose deaths, ASTHO is working to identify effective policy and legal strategies to combat this significant public health problem.