Obama Announces New Plans To Tackle Drug Overdose Crisis

by Mary C. Piemonte

Center for Disease Control and Prevention courtesy photo

Center for Disease Control and Prevention courtesy photo

“The opioid crisis is far from over,” according to a news release from the United States White House on Oct. 21, 2015.

“More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes and the majority of those overdoses involve prescription medications,” the White House news release stated.

And it added that “Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012 – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.”

West Virginia had the highest drug overdose mortality rate in America two years ago, according to a recent report by Healthy Americans.

And it still does, according to a recent Charleston Gazette news report.

There has also been an apparent increase in the number of women dying from overdosing on prescription painkillers compared to men, according to a recent report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Photo courtesy of The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In an attempt to get a grip on the dramatic rise in heroin-related overdoses, which nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a memorandum to federal departments and agencies consisting of additional steps to combat the prescription drug abuse and ongoing heroin epidemic.

The Presidential Memorandum requires federal officials “to provide training on the prescribing of these medications to federal health care professionals” who prescribe controlled substances as part of their responsibilities.

It also requires the federal departments and agencies to improve access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use by conducting reviews in order “to identify barriers to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders and develop action plans to address these barriers.”

Photo courtesy of The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Photo courtesy of The Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Additionally, that same day the President traveled to West Virginia “to hear directly from individuals and families affected by this epidemic and the health care professionals, law enforcement officers, and community leaders working to prevent addiction and respond to its aftermath.”

According to the White House news release, more than 40 provider groups in the state, local and private sector, “including physicians, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists and educators” also committed to provide extra resources in an attempt to combat the opioid crisis:

  • By having “more than 540,000 health care providers complete opioid prescriber training in the next two years; 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.”
  • By doubling “the number of providers that prescribe naloxone–a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose, and doubling the number of health care providers registered with their state prescription drug monitoring programs in the next two years.”

Additionally those committed to combating the potentially deadly situation  intend to 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 in the next two years.”

Mega companies such as “CBS, ABC, the New York Times, Google, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and other companies” have also  committed to donating millions of dollars in media space for Public Service Announcements “about the risks of prescription drug misuse produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids” according to the White House document.

Read more about the President’s, the public and private sectors’ efforts to tackle the nation’s drug overdose crisis here.

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