Heroin and Opiate Addiction to Receive Federal Funding
Recent reports state that President Obama will be seeking over $1 billion for drug treatment in the upcoming 2017 budget. This money will be used specifically for heroin and opioid abuse. According to White House officials, these drugs now kill more people than car crashes.
Prescription painkillers and heroin are thought to be closely associated. In 2012, healthcare providers wrote nearly 260 million prescriptions for opioid narcotics. According to the CDC, this is enough to put one full bottle of pills in the hands of every American adult. And tragically, in the years 2002-2013, heroin-related overdose deaths quadrupled.
Common opinion is that the increase (and subsequent crackdown) in opioid prescriptions has led to a dramatic uptick in heroin use. When users can no longer afford or allocate painkillers by legitimate means, they turn to heroin. Ill-gotten prescription painkillers on the street tend to be far more expensive.
The largest portion of the funding will include $920 million for cooperative agreements with states. This will be used to increase affordability and expand access to medical treatment for opioid abuse. Funds received by states will be directly correlated to the severity of their current opioid epidemic.
Also, another $500 million will be allocated to increase the following:
- Efforts to expand state overdose prevention strategies
- Availability of medication-assisted treatment options
- Access to the drug Naltrexone, which effectively reverses overdoses
- Support for enforcement activities
Some of this funding is specific to rural areas, such as West Virginia which has been particularly hard hit. Also experiencing epidemics are Ohio, Kentucky, and New Hampshire.
In addition, $50 million will be used to increase access to 700 substance abuse treatment centers. Another $30 million will be used to provide evidence-based research on the effectiveness of treatment programs, and identify areas of potential improvement.
The Needle Exchange Program
In related news, President Obama signed a spending package last month which reversed the U.S. ban on federal funding for a needle exchange program. This allows IV drug users to trade dirty syringes in exchange for clean needles – the result of which hoped to be disease prevention. While federal funds cannot be used for the needles themselves, they can go to larger expenses related to these programs, including staffing, counseling, treatment referrals, and outreach programs.