Tag: Congress

“Our Nation’s Single Biggest Public Health Concern”

Opioids: An American Epidemic

It’s no longer breaking news that America has a drug problem. For several years now, we’ve been in the grip of an ever-worsening opioid crisis. We’ve moved, as a country, from popping painkillers to mainlining heroin.

Lighthouse Recovery Institute has reported on this epidemic many times. Almost every news outlet, every addiction and recovery website, has reported on it. Still, when Congressional leaders call a hearing, it’s time to sit up and take note.

That’s exactly what happened recently. In late April, Congress called a hearing of seven governmental agencies to address our love for all things opioid. Representatives from the DEA, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), and others stood before elected officials and made clear just how bad things have become.

current state of painkiller abuse in america

They touched on Indiana’s recent outbreak of IV painkiller abuse induced HIV. Nora Volkow, the Director of NIDA, said not only is this the fastest spreading instance of HIV in US history, but it also caught everyone by surprise (Indy Star).

Dr. Debra Houry, the Director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, linked opioid abuse to how doctors prescribe these medications. She argued that something’s shifted over the last thirty or so years in how healthcare providers dispense painkillers.

During the hearings, Pennsylvania Representative Tim Murphy uttered a sentence I believe to be both true and terrifying. While dicusinng the impact drugs like Norco, Percocet, and OxyContin have had on our country, he declared, “This is our nation’s single biggest public health concern” (Indy Star).

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A Handful of Possible Solutions

Despite the overwhelmingly bleak tone of these congressional hearings, hope was in no short supply. Public officials listed off numerous ways to help combat and, ultimately, to fix our country’s dependence on pain pills.

Michael Botticelli, the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy and a man in long-term addiction recovery, offered a three-point plan for recovery. He argued for reducing the number of opioids prescribed, reducing the number of opioid induced overdoses, and increasing access to substance abuse treatment.

It’s worth noting that these ideas fit with both President Obama and Congress’ proposed 2016 drug abuse prevention budgets.

Larry Bucshon, a Congressional Representative from Indiana, offered up an idea for introducing legislation improving addiction treatment. His plans involved using evidence based treatments and strategies to move away from medication assisted therapies (Suboxone and methadone maintenance).

Another representative from Indiana, Senator Joe Donnelly, is backing legislation that mirrors Botticelli’s three-point plan. Sen. Donnelly’s bill has provisions to change how medical professionals prescribe narcotic pills, prevent overdoses via the use of Narcan, and increase public awareness of the many dangers inherent to opioid medications.

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The Bottom Line

The above suggestions and plans highlight one central fact – concerned policymakers are taking action to address America’s love affair with painkillers. Of course, there’s no such thing as an easy solution. All of these plans will take work and, perhaps more importantly, money to be successful.

Still, there are men and women out there fighting prescription drugs. There are men and women out there leading the charge in drastic pain pill reform.

Will this reform happen overnight? Not likely. Will it happen in the next year? Not likely. What is likely, though, is slowly but surely our country’s attitude towards prescription opioids will change. Slowly but surely things will get better.

That’s a change we can all get behind.

Think your child or loved one may be using heroin? Learn how to be sure today

Will This Law End Painkiller Abuse Once & For All?

Is This the End of Painkiller Abuse?

hr 471 painkiller abuse laws

The House of Representatives recently passed the 2015 version of a bill entitled “The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.” It’s a major step forward in ending painkiller abuse once and for all.

HR 471, as it’s known in the House, is the latest version of a multiyear anti-painkiller legislative schedule. Various iterations of this bill have been floating around Congress since 2013. This year’s version, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, was passed into law on Tuesday, April 21st.

Marsha Blackburn, a Republican representative from Tennessee and a cosponsor of the bill, had the following to say about HR 471,

“…This legislation will foster a more collaborative environment between manufacturers, wholesalers, retail pharmacies and federal enforcement agencies…We must be aggressive about addressing this epidemic, while also ensuring that patients who need medications to alleviate pain and treat illnesses will have access to them through a safe and secure supply chain” (Representative Tom Marino’s Website).

While this law alone isn’t going to put the nail in the coffin of painkiller abuse, it’s a monumental step forward for lawmakers and citizens alike. Read on to learn what exactly The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act is all about and what makes this year’s version different from former versions of the bill.

More & more pregnant women are taking painkillers…what’s REALLY going on?

The Newest Painkiller Abuse Law

Perhaps the first thing apparent about HR 471, and Congress’ other efforts to curb opioid abuse, is how bipartisan they are. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, and Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, authored this particular bill. Congresswoman Blackburn (mentioned above), a Republican from Tennessee, and Judy Chu, a Democrat from California, then cosponsored it.

It’s clear from this bipartisan attitude just how serious the government is about fighting opioid abuse. It’s also clear that they’re pulling no punches. They’re rolling out the red carpet, so to speak, for further bills and motions in Congress.

Following along this line of thinking, a bill identical to HR 471 is making its way through the Senate. The bill, S 483, was introduced by both Democrats and Republicans. Much like the House of Representatives bill, it promises continued action on the part of federal agencies and local pharmacies.

And here we get into what HR 471 actually does. After all, I didn’t call the bill monumental for nothing! The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act has a few major implications.

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First, it removes the ambiguity that exists between federal and state level drug delivery guidelines. Put into simpler terms, HR 471 gets rid of conflicting laws. Federal and state laws can, and often do, conflict each other. No longer is that the case. HR 471 implements one set of nationwide laws regarding drug delivery and compliance guidelines.

Second, the bill promotes collaboration between federal agencies (the DEA, the ONDCP, and others), local law enforcement (state and city police forces), and drug suppliers (pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies themselves). With all cogs in the machine on the same page, working together and sharing information, there’s much less chance for painkiller diversion and abuse.

Think about it like this – if a local police force sees a spike in Vicodin arrests, they can communicate this information to local pharmacies. These pharmacies will then be better prepared for forged prescriptions and other diversion methods. The police force can also inform the DEA, who can compare local Vicodin arrests against nationwide data. The results of this comparison can be shown to pharmaceutical companies to help them develop more effective “abuse-deterrent” forms of Vicodin.

About this unprecedented level of communication and collaboration, HR 471 author Tom Marino had the following to say,

…It requires federal agencies like HHS to actually consult with local pharmacies and other stakeholders on how best to prevent prescription drug abuse; especially from an operational standpoint. We have to remember it is pharmaceutical professionals on the ground that are closest to this issue and know how to appropriately address it (Congressman Marino’s Website).

A quarter of all opioid prescriptions are abused…learn more shocking painkiller addiction statistics today

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