On April 6, participants from 49 states gathered in Atlanta for the fourth annual National Rx Drug Abuse Summit. The three-day conference drew 1,400 attendees, including government officials, medical professionals, treatment providers, educators, and advocates, all committed to tackling what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history.
Organized by Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment, and Education, Inc.), the summit is the largest national collaboration of professionals dedicated to reducing prescription drug misuse and addiction. Keynote speakers and sessions focused on the rising number of overdose deaths due to opioids, a class of drug that includes prescription painkillers and heroin. Workshops and roundtables addressed the epidemic from a variety of perspectives such as treatment access, drug policy, education, law enforcement, and stigma.
What united attendees was a belief in the need for a comprehensive approach to reduce overdose deaths and addiction. “We must continue our urgent work to reduce prescription opioid misuse, expand access to evidence-based treatment, reduce stigma around substance use disorders, and engage the medical establishment in preventing and treating addiction,” stressed Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office for National Drug Control Policy.
Former U.S. Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, author and chief sponsor of the “Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act” of 2008, similarly emphasized the importance of increased prevention and screening efforts. “People say [mental health and addiction] treatment doesn’t work,” Kennedy said. “Of course treatment doesn’t work because we’re waiting until [users] are on death’s door to [help them].”
For Phoenix House Chief Medical Officer Andrew Kolodny, M.D., who has attended the summit since its inception in 2011, the increased attendance was gratifying: “Not long ago, nobody was talking about this problem,” Dr. Kolodny noted. “Championed by Chairman Hal Rogers, this conference has brought people together from across the country for the last four years. Though the epidemic shows no sign of relenting, I am encouraged by what I’ve heard during these sessions about actions being taken on the front lines.”
The summit also marked the CDC’s launch of a social media campaign to raise awareness about painkiller addiction. Through May 15, tweeters are invited to share their stories about prescription painkillers in six words using the hashtag #RxProblem.
Source: – National Rx Drug Abuse Summit