A8 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11. 2001 miASHIMGTDIM THE SAUNA JOURNAL T NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON DRUG ABUSE New front to drag war: abuse of prescriptions Agency begins campaign to combat new drug trend By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Four million Americans are abusing prescription drugs, including sleep-deprived people who become addicted to sedatives and family members who sell spare pills on the street, the government says. Pharmaceuticals designed to relieve pain, calm stress or bring on sleep provide great benefit for millions, but when the drugs are used for nonmedical reasons, they can lead to addiction and damaged health, said Alan I. Leshner, head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Leshner announced at a news conference Tuesday that the NIDA and seven organizations representing the elderly, pharmacies, drug manufacturers and patients are starting a campaign to combat what he called "a dangerous new drug abuse trend" — the nonmedical use of prescriptions. Calvin Anthony, vice president of the National Community Pharmacists Association and one of a group of experts from the prescription drug industry at the news conference, estimated that misuse and abuse of medication has more than a $100 billion impact on the nation's health care costs. The experts said many patients taking sedatives, stimulants, tranquilizers, pain killers or opioids begin to use the pills inappropriately and can slip into an addiction cycle that dominates their lives and damages their health. "Nobody starts out to be addicted," Leshner said. "While prescription drugs can relieve a variety of medical prob lems and improve the lives of millions of Americans, they can be dangerous, addicting and even deadly when used nonmedically," he said. The experts said patients with chronic pain often keep supplies of drugs in their homes for legitimate use and in some cases the drugs are stolen by family members for sale on the street. Morphine is often used in large doses by patients with terminal cancer or other conditions and stolen packages of the drug are in high demand on the street. Some people recovering from surgery use pain relievers far longer than needed and eventually become addicted. Poor sleepers take sedatives and may mix it with alcohol or other drugs. Eventually, they need more and more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Patients habituated to the drugs may "doctor shop" to find physicians who will prescribe the pills, and some addicts will establish accounts at different pharmacies to disguise the number of pills they are actually using. • DRUNKEN DRIVING STANDARDS Liquor industry supports 0.08 limit states urged to adopt lower tlireshhold or lose federal money By The Associated Press WASHINGTON — The liquor industry has agreed to support a lower threshold for drunken driving. The liquor lobby said Tuesday it will urge state legislatures to lower the legal standard for drunken driving to 0.08 percent blood alcohol content. Most states have a 0.10 standard. Industry representatives made their pledge at a news conference with Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Mothers Against Drunk Driving President Millie Webb to push for the tighter standard, which proponents say could save 500 lives a yean Legislation signed last fall by President Clinton would take away 2 percent of federal highway funds from states that fail to adopt the 0.08 standard by 2004. Currently, 21 states and the District of Columbia have a 0.08 standard, and in Massachusetts a level of 0.08 is considered evidence but not proof of drunkenness. Arizona Gov. Jane Hull is expected to sign legislation this week imposing a 0.08 standard. The other states have a 0.10 standard, including Minnesota, where a legislative committee Monday refused to tighten the limit. A proponent of the tighter standard. Democratic state Rep. Matt Entenza, said the liquor industry's announcement was "more proof that 0.08 is inevitable." Industry officials said they would push the 0.08 BAG standard — the equivalent of a 170- pound man downing four drinks in an hour on an empty stomach — as part of a package of laws aimed at motorists who repeatedly drive drunk. "You've got to get this repeat offender off the highways," said Peter Cressy, president of the Distilled Spirits Council, the liquor industry's trade group. Such laws include giving states the power to seize cars driven by repeat drunken drivers, increasing penalties for those with multiple drunken driving convictions and requiring those convicted of drunken driving to undergo treatment. "We believe that to achieve the best possible impact on this important battle, states should promote effective comprehensive legislation addressing several key areas," said former Rep. 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