Prescription drug overdoses have surpassed car crashes as the No. 1 cause of accidental death in Kentucky and nearly half the states.
The pain-pill scourge is supplied by an illicit interstate trade, so only an interstate effort can combat it.
We're still waiting for a national prescription drug monitoring program. Meanwhile, states are smart to build connections between their electronic prescription monitoring programs, as Kentucky and Ohio have recently done.
This week, representatives of Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee also connected in person in Ashland at the first meeting of an interstate task force charged with combating the pill plague, especially in their shared Appalachian corridor.
This is also a smart move, though the epidemic spread beyond Appalachia long ago.
The FBI this week announced that it broke up a large pill mill in Florida and charged those involved under organized crime statutes. State prosecutors charged a physician who was part of the operation with murder.
The rate of unintentional deaths from prescription drug overdoses now exceeds that of the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and the black tar heroin epidemic of the 1970s combined, according to federal officials.
The per person use of prescription pain relievers in the United States increased from 74 milligrams to 369 milligrams, an increase of 402 percent, between 1997 and 2007.
Those numbers make it clear that law enforcement and state monitoring efforts are no match for the scourge of pain pill addiction.
Physicians must do a better job of educating themselves and policing their own ranks, as House Speaker Greg Stumbo recently said.
And we can't wait for all 50 states to finally create and integrate prescription monitoring systems. We need a national system now.