Over the past several years, the United States has been in the grips of an opiate epidemic that has lawmakers grappling with ways to slow its progress. The dramatic spike in both heroin and prescription painkiller deaths have made drug overdoses the leading cause of preventable death in America. Of the estimated 43,000 overdose deaths that occurred in 2013, nearly half were due to heroin or prescription painkiller abuse. The effects of opiate addiction are widespread, and is not only severely affecting families but it’s also straining law enforcement and drug treatment programs. In the wake of this epidemic, President Obama has announced a coordinated effort to effective address the issue of opiate addiction.
The Outline of President Obama’s Plan
During an October stop in Charleston, West Virginia, Obama had announced that his administration takes steps to increase access to drug treatment and expand the training of doctors who prescribe opiate painkillers. These efforts would be made on the local, state and federal levels as well as the private sector. According to the official White House press release regarding these initiatives, there have been commitments by more than 40 provider groups that represent doctors, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists and educators. As part of these initiatives, more than 540,000 health care providers will complete opioid prescriber training within the next two years.
Additionally, major networks, major sports leagues and other companies will donate millions of dollars in media space for PSAs about the risks of prescription drug misuse produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. These companies include ABC, CBS, Google, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Major League Baseball.
Two Important Keys To Obama’s Plan
The centerpiece of Obama’s overall plan focuses on two major steps that are seen as key to slowing the growing heroin and prescription painkiller epidemic. These key features were also outlined in the official White House press release:
To help ensure that health care professionals who prescribe opioids are properly trained in opioid prescribing and to establish the Federal Government as a model, the Presidential Memorandum requires Federal Departments and Agencies to provide training on the prescribing of these medications to Federal health care professionals who prescribe controlled substances as part of their Federal responsibilities.
Improving Access to Treatment
Second, to improve access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use, the Presidential Memorandum directs Federal Departments and Agencies that directly provide, contract to provide, reimburse for, or otherwise facilitate access to health benefits, to conduct a review to identify barriers to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders and develop action plans to address these barriers.
Additional measures proposed by President Obama include doubling the number of providers who can prescribe naloxone, which is a drug that has been proven to reverse the effects of opiate overdoses. This initiative also seeks to double the number of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment, from 30,000 to 60,000 over the next three years as well as reach more than 4 million health care providers with awareness messaging on opioid abuse, appropriate prescribing practices, and actions providers can take to be a part of the solution within the next two years.
A Shift in Policy
The Obama administration’s drug policy has embraced the philosophy of shifting people who struggle with drug and alcohol addiction away from the criminal justice system and towards drug treatment. This shift in policy has been embraced by both Democrats and Republicans. While these initiatives proposed by the President would be a strong step in the right direction, it is running into roadblocks in regards to funding. While Obama currently proposed $133 million in new spending to curb overprescribing, increase the amount of overdose data collected and expand access to Naloxone, Congress must act on his budget proposal and with government shutdowns looming and other obstacles it is highly unlikely that current measures will be funded.
Despite the uphill climb these proposals are facing, the reality is that the opiate addiction and overdose problem in the United States will continue to grow unless there is decisive action. With heroin deaths quadrupling over the last decade and the resurgence of heroin use being fueled in large part by prescription painkillers, treatment-based solutions, and advocacy measures are the only way the epidemic can be addressed in a realistic fashion.
Are You or a Loved One Addicted to Opiates and Need Help?
Whether it is heroin or prescription painkillers, those addicted to opiates will experience devastating impacts on their health and it will severely affect their loved ones. If you or a loved one need help in breaking the vicious cycle of opiate addiction in your life, Recovery Hub can help. We are a premier internet addiction and recovery resource that is committed to providing you the support and encouragement you need as you seek the treatment options and other resources that will help you get clean and sober. Call us right now and make your recovery a reality 888-220-4352.