Due to the recent opioid drug overdose epidemic, President Barack Obama is calling for more addiction treatment and access across the United States.
To address the issue, Obama announced several initiatives March 29 and delivered an address at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta.
“Regardless of how individuals get into these situations, we don’t know everything,” Obama said at the summit. “There may be genetic components. Addictions may be different for different people. What we do know is there are steps that can be taken to get through addiction and get to the other side, and that is under-resourced.”
Obama is urging Congress to spend $1.1 billion over the next two years to expand addiction treatment and access. He proposes the following initiatives to tackle the issue:
- Giving $11 million to states to expand medication-assisted treatment therapies, including buprenorphine and methadone, which help to manage withdrawal and recovery
- Increasing the limit on the number of patients a doctor can treat with buprenorphine from 100 patients to 200 patients per doctor
- Providing an additional $11 million to states to use naloxone, known as the opioid reversal drug
- Creating a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force
The initiatives are in response to several studies, which show just how rampant the opioid epidemic has become. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 78 Americans die every day from overdosing on opioids, including illicit drugs like heroin and legal pain medications such as hydrocodone and oxycodone. The CDC also reports that more than 47,000 Americans died from overdoses to heroin and prescription painkillers in 2014, which is a 7% increase in just one year.
The effort to expand addiction treatment and access is showing signs of bipartisan support in Congress, even during the 2016 presidential election year. On March 10, the Senate, with a vote of 94-1, passed an addiction treatment and prevention bill known as Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). The bill is still waiting on a vote from the House of Representatives before it is officially made into law.
You can follow the progress of the CARA bill through the government’s Association for Addiction Professionals.
To help aid in the efforts of expanding addiction treatment, President Obama said more needs to be done to educate Americans that addiction is a preventable disease.
“The public doesn’t fully appreciate the scope of the problem,” he said, while urging former addicts to share their stories and addiction experts to educate the public. “It helps to provide a greater spotlight on how to solve this problem.”