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The Office of National Drug Control Policy released its 2004 national drug control strategy and budget reports on March 1, 2004. The Associated Press reported in the Guardian newspaper () that "President Bush's national anti-drug strategy will for the first time target the use of pain relievers, sedatives and stimulants for nonmedical purposes, a problem that has exploded in the last decade. A key part of the strategy being released Monday involves government efforts to help states develop monitoring systems to track a patient's use of prescription medicine. The monitoring programs flag cases that indicate a pattern of abuse, such as 'doctor shopping,' where a patient gets prescriptions for drugs from multiple physicians. Prescription medicine now ranks second, behind marijuana, among drugs most abused by adults and young people, said the report by the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy. It cited a recent study by the Health and Human Services Department. Twenty states have prescription monitoring programs, the report said. John Walters, director of the drug policy office, said he expects to expand the program to 11 more states by next year. About $10 million in federal funds will bankroll the expansion."

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"'Determing illegitimate use is challenging,' said Thomas Menighan, RPh, president of the American Pharmaceutical Association. 'We can't view every patient as a potential abuser.' Leshner himself seemed to undermine the message of the rally by forcefully stating, 'Very, very few people who use prescription drugs develop addiction.'
"So what exactly is the problem?
"Leshner said he is alarmed by the increasing number of people who use prescription drugs nonmedically. Data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, administered by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, show the number of new abusers of prescription drugs is on the rise. In 1998, an estimated 1.6 million Americans used prescription pain relievers nonmedically for the first time. In the 1980s, the survey reported there were generally fewer than 500,000 first-time users each year. 'We're pretty confident the increase is real' and not an artifact of data collection, said Lucinda Miner, PhD, chief of science policy at NIDA.
"But teasing out precise trends is difficult.
"The 1999 survey incorporated major changes that make it incompatible with earlier surveys, said Jim Colliver, PhD, a NIDA statistician. Colliver also said there is confusion about the figures presented at the press conference. Leshner stated that 4 million people used prescription drugs nonmedically during 1999, while the survey report actually places that figure at 9.3 million.
"The 4 million figure refers to past-month, not past-year, usage, said Colliver.
"In any case, the survey does a poor job of tracking the severity of abuse, as the 1999 report does not distinguish between fleeting and chronic users.
"Of the 4 million -- or 9.3 million, depending on the time frame -- prescription drug abusers, it is unclear how many used pills once, 10 times, or 100 times."

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is sending one of his top drug-policy advisers to Knoxville for a community forum on preventing and treating prescription drug abuse and heroin use.

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