(UNDATED) - Seven hundred eighteen Indiana residents died from accidental drug overdoses in 2011, a 10 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller visited Bloomington to discuss the launch of BitterPill.IN.gov., a website that features information about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs, including dealing with addiction, properly disposing of unwanted prescriptions, and reporting illegal activities.
WFIU reports, Zoeller is visiting various cities throughout Indiana to discuss the initiative.
Zoeller says Bloomington has a greater reach than the people who live in the city throughout the year and is usually one of the stops on his tours throughout the state.
The website serves as a one-stop shop for consumers to access information and resources to end the prescription drug abuse epidemic.
The BitterPill initiative was launched Aug. 16 at the Indiana State Fair.
"There is a misconception that because a drug is prescribed by a doctor that it is safe," said Peggy Welch, member of Indiana's Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force and former state legislator. "But that's not the case if you aren't using it for the prescribed purpose."
With the launch of BitterPill, the creation of the task force and the annual Prescription Drug Abuse Symposium, Indiana is ahead of the curve when it comes to taking proactive steps to combat the drug abuse crisis, Zoeller says.
In addition to the website launch, the task force is also taking legislative steps to decrease the problem of prescription drug abuse.
Last legislative session, the task force passed two bills to combat the problem.
The first statute, Senate Enrolled Act 246, effectively shut down "pill mills" by requiring clinic owners to hold an Indiana Controlled SubstanceRegistration.
The second statute, House Enrolled Act 1465, funded the INSPECT Prescription Drug Monitoring Program that allows doctors and law enforcement officers to track drug-seeking behaviors.
"The INSPECT program gives doctors proof of a patient's medical history and allows them to make confident prescribing decisions," task force member Joshua Anderson said.
Zoeller says the legislation and the task force are just the beginning.
He added, prescription drug abuse is especially dangerous on college campuses, where young people are experimenting with and combining drugs that can interact with fatal consequences.
"Student government and student groups need to get the word out that this is a real problem," Zoeller says. "It's up to students to be leaders among their peers."
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