New Plan to Fight Prescription Drug, Heroin Abuse
In an effort to curtail the enormous opioid drug epidemic in the U.S., President Obama has issued a memorandum in the hope that this will reverse the growing trend. The memorandum is designed to provide a more in-depth opioid prescription drug training format for medical professionals. It will also provide increased accessibility to medication-assisted treatment opportunities. On a recent trip to West Virginia, the President engaged both individuals and families who are directly affected by the epidemic. He is also working with law enforcement officers, healthcare professionals and community leaders in an effort to form a coalition to quell this growing problem. The President’s actions reveal the severity of the opioid epidemic and the collective efforts of many people to fight against it. Drug overdoses are now the cause of more deaths annually than motor vehicle accidents, and most of those drugs are prescription medications. In 2012, there were approximately 260 million opioid prescriptions written by healthcare providers. This shocking amount of prescribed medications would literally put a bottle of opioid medication in the hand of every adult in the nation.
In a unified effort to bring awareness to the public about the severity of the opioid epidemic, multiple media groups and sports leagues are donating millions of dollars in media space. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids will be providing public service announcements to raise awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse. President Obama also aims to address the accessibility of treatment programs specifically designed for prescription drug and heroin abuse. His plan seeks to identify all barriers that prevent access to medically-assisted treatment programs for opioid disorders. The plan would also double the amount of certified physicians to treat opioid disorders with buprenorphine. The number of physicians would be increased to 60,000 over a three year period. Objectives would also include doubling the number of healthcare providers that are registered in their State Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the prevalence of prescription opioid prescription drug use disorders has increased in the U.S. among adults aged 18-64. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agree on the findings. Their research clearly shows a prevalence of prescription opioid use disorders increased along with high frequency use. Prescription opioid drug deaths are also on the rise. Their research shows the devastating consequences of prescription opioid abuse even though there has been a decrease in non-medical use. People with prescription opioid drug disorders need medically-assisted treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is addressing the seriousness of the problem with sponsored prevention and treatment programs. SAMHSA has developed the Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit which provides information on how to reduce the risk of death from opioid overdose.
On another front, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade of the State of Michigan has called neighboring states together in a joint effort to solve the opioid epidemic. One of the issues addressed at the one-day summit was a plan to halt heroin and prescription drug trafficking under the headship of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force. McQuade shared that the State of Michigan saw an increase in heroin addiction as opioid addicts are turning to heroin as a cheaper and more easily accessible alternative. Michigan is also experiencing a tremendous increase in prescription drug abuse. State officials who attended the summit plan to share their strategies with other regional Justice Department officials. They plan to target high-level drug traffickers for arrest as well as increase public education about opioid addiction, and offer more treatment programs for addicts.
The opioid prescription drug and heroin epidemic is prevalent throughout the nation. Deaths from overdose and opioid disorders are increasing across the board. President Obama’s initiative is to lead the nation out of the opioid/heroin epidemic in a joint effort that involves us all.