Senate Addresses Opioid and Heroin Addiction

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Senate Addresses Opioid and Heroin Addiction

On Monday, February 29th, the U.S. Senate finally began to address the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic in the United States.

In a unanimous vote (89-0), the senate made progress in legislation debate which would develop an interagency task force. This force would consider best practices for opioid prescribing, and also allow federal officials to make drug policies which focus more on treatment and prevention than on arrest and punishment. A final vote is scheduled for later this week.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (2015) was authored by Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Is is also co-sponsored by 35 senators from both parties.

Portman from the Washington Examiner:

“The stories behind the heroin and prescription drug epidemic are heartbreaking. The numbers are shocking, with more than 100 Americans dying from overdoses every day. Congress can help, and we must act.”

Senators began a rush of support for the bill earlier in February. Some holding press conferences, and speaking on the Senate floor about the devastation that heroin and opioid abuse was inflicting on the public in their states. The ideas behind this bill are in significant contrast to previous notions about the war on drugs and locking up offenders.

The bill would also offer incentives for states and communities to establish education, prevention, and treatment programs that have had past successes. Also, there should be a greater availability/education about the life-saving drug naloxone, which effectively reverses overdoses.

Upon passing, this legislation would be one of few bits of legislation agreed upon by Congress in 2016.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in recent years heroin use has increased among both women and men, most age groups, and all income brackets. Between 2002-2013, overdose deaths caused by heroin quadrupled, with 8200 fatalities in 2013.

Commentary

It’s nice to see officials at the federal level finally recognizing the graveness of the problem, and taking steps to improving and saving lives instead of fighting a losing war in our criminal justice system.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

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