On Wednesday, President Obama revealed steps to curb the surging rate of addiction to opioids, a class of drug that includes prescription painkillers and heroin. The president’s open dialogue about this growing public health crisis at a forum in West Virginia—ground zero for the opioid epidemic—is his first conversation about the issue with a live audience.
“More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do from motor vehicle crashes,” Obama said. “The majority of those overdoses involve legal prescription drugs. I don’t have to tell you, this is a terrible toll.”
Despite the president’s concern, his administration’s new efforts may stem the devastating increase in overdoses only modestly.
His strategy includes doubling the number of doctors who can prescribe buprenorphine, a drug used to treat opioid addiction, to 60,000 over the next three years. He also has engaged more than 40 medical provider groups that committed to training more than half a million doctors and dentists on the safe prescription of opioid medications.
Reining in prescribing practices is essential to preventing more people from becoming addicted to opioids, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analysis presented last week. The data revealed that a small number of doctors wrote most of the narcotic painkiller prescriptions in eight states with prescription drug monitoring programs. Prescribing practices among the states varied widely, though conditions for which opioids are often prescribed—such as back pain—occur at similar rates.
In addition to announcing his strategy, Obama listened to stories from people whose families have been affected by addiction. He also advocated for more funding for treatment, saying the billions of dollars saved from easing sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenders could be spent on drug treatment programs.
“We’re going to have to build and fund and support more treatment centers,” he said to applause.
Source: New York Times –