Opioid Abuse is as Important a Threat as Terrorism
President Barack Obama traveled to Atlanta Tuesday, March 29, 2016, to speak to about 2,000 people attending the 5th annual National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit is the largest national collaboration of professionals from local, state and federal agencies, business, academia, clinicians, treatment providers, counselors, educators, state and national leaders, and advocates impacted by prescription drug abuse and heroin use. President Obama Addresses Opioid and Heroin Abuse Epidemic.
The President was on a panel focused on the growing problem of abuse of opioid drugs, like heroin, morphine, and prescription painkillers. Panelists were Dr. Leana Wen, Baltimore City Health Commissioner; Crystal Oertle, a mother in recovery from rural Ohio; and Justin Riley, President/CEO of Young People In Recovery. Moderating the panel was Dr. Sandjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN. The opioid epidemic shows that addiction can reach everybody.
The President told the group that more people are dying from opioid drugs than are dying in car crashes.
Every 19 minutes someone dies from an opioid overdose. Obama told the panel “I think the public doesn’t fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem.” President Obama said the U.S. can cut opioid abuse in a similar way that has worked to lower tobacco use and decrease traffic fatalities – we have to fight addiction like we did car accidents.
A further strong policy statement was that opioid deaths in the United States are trending dramatically in the wrong direction and the issue has to be moved to the top of the federal government’s agenda, along with the threat of terrorism and promoting a strong economy.“We medicate a lot of problems and self-medicate a lot,” Obama said. “The problem we have right now is treatment is doesn’t have enough funds.”
President Obama wants to allocate $1.1 billion in tax dollars in the fight against drug addiction.
This White House Fact Sheet provides details of his initiative. The majority of the money Obama seeks to fight opioid addiction would fund agreements with states to expand medication treatment, according to White House officials. Congress is trying to reach agreement on the allocation of more resources to confront the problem, and this appears to be one of few areas where bipartisan agreement may be reached during this election year. Earlier in the sessions on Tuesday , the issue of doctor training for dealing with the opioid prescription and abuse problem is a key to success.
According to Dr. Patrice Harris, chairman of an American Medical Association task force on the opioid abuse crisis, “Changes must start with us.” But there some signs of progress, she said. For instance, over the past two years the total number of prescriptions for opioids has decreased. “Physicians have changed their prescribing practices for many reasons, which is a good sign, a sign of progress, but I think we all can agree that there is more work to do,” Dr. Harris said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released on March 15, 2016, its eagerly awaited report on opioids and the corresponding guidelines for their use as medicine for chronic pain.
This report clearly states that opioids have been misused and overprescribed by doctors.
A poignant portion of the panel occurred as former drug addicts told their stories of abuse. Obama listened as two people on the panel shared about their addiction to heroin and prescription drugs. “It slowly went from weekend to using it through the week, needing it to go to work, to eventually I needed something stronger than Vicodin. I was doing OxyContin,” one of the recovering drug addicts told the panel.
“It’s great to hear the president say the ‘disease of addiction’ but there still is a stigma,” said Crystal Oertle, an advocate for recovering addicts. “I talk to a lot of people who are on probation. Their probation officers do not treat them like they have a disease.” A recovering addict herself, the 35 year old mother told the President she continues to feel judged due to her struggles with drug addiction. Others panelists offered stories of negative experiences addicts often have with both the medical and law enforcement communities. Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen said that as an emergency doctor, there have been times when a lack of resources has prevented her from delivering proper addiction care, and has forced her to limit treatment to temporary solutions. “One of the worst feelings as a doctor is knowing you can’t help them,” Dr.Wen said. “What so many patients need is addiction treatment.”
Contact Oceanfront Recovery
If you or a loved one is struggling with an opioid addiction, it is time to get the help necessary. Call 877.279.1777 today to learn more about programs available and make an appointment with one of our addiction specialists.