Confronting a national epidemic of heroin and prescription drug abuse, the United States has been witnessing thousands of drug-induced overdose deaths which have statistically surpassed even car crash fatalities and suicides. In 2014 alone, more than 47,000 Americans died of drug overdoses.
The nation has been engaged in a “war” for last 25 years, but unfortunately drug abusers continue to play havoc with their own lives with nearly half of all Americans taking one or more drugs. The economic costs of drug use are enormous, amounting to more than $700 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity and health care, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Citing the alarming statistics at the fifth National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta on March 29, 2016, President Barack Obama announced some new measures to reduce drug use and its consequences. Following are some of the new initiatives of the federal government made public by the President:
- Setting up a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force: In the light of the prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic, the government will establish an inter-agency Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force to improve prevention, early intervention, and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders. The President urged the executive departments and agencies to work together to ensure that Americans receive benefits from the federal parity protections offered by the law.
- Implementing Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity in Medicaid: It mandates health insurers and group health plans to provide the same level of benefits for mental and/or substance use treatment and services that they do for medical/surgical care. The law will offer greater enforcement needed in order to fulfil the promise of parity for the millions of Americans living with implications of drug addiction.
- Providing additional funds: Through Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Obama administration will make available an additional fund of $11 million to states and community health centers to equip first responders with naloxone, and provide training on other overdose death prevention strategies.
- Expanding the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s regional High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas: This program allows for coordination among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to coordinate drug enforcement operations, improve public health and safety, and back prevention efforts in critical drug trafficking areas of the nation.
- Investing in community policing: The Obama administration is also taking a number of steps to strengthen community policing and to fortify the trust that must exist between law enforcement officers and the communities they serve through $7 million in Department of Justice grants for the COPS Anti-Heroin Task Force Program. The program is designed to propagate public safety by investigating illicit activities related to the distribution of heroin or unlawful distribution of prescriptive opioids, or unlawful heroin and prescription opioid traffickers through statewide collaboration.
The White House strategy will continue to target the supply of opioids, said President Obama. “What we have to recognize in this global economy of ours is that the most important thing we can do is to reduce the demand for drugs. The only way we reduce demand is if we’re providing treatment and thinking about this as a public health problem, and not just a criminal problem.”
The proponents of drug policy are also trying to control the number of fatal overdoses of heroin, while improving access to treatment for users.
Fighting the menace
The majority of drug overdose deaths in America involve prescription medications every year. However, advocates of addiction sufferers and their families were frustrated by the slow federal response to the epidemic during the past few years. With the government’s latest initiatives, there is enormous headway in efforts to combat the toll the nation faces from prescription drug abuse and heroin use.
Addiction is considered a mental problem, a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated. But doctors and pharmacists find themselves struggling with unintended consequences of drug use.
Fighting the drug menace is not just the duty of the government or the caregivers, but every individual needs to get involved. If you or your loved one is battling addiction, now is the time to act and lead a happy drug-free life. Contact the Prescription Drug Abuse Helpline to learn about the best treatment options available in your area. You can reach our experts via online chat or at 24/7 helpline number 866-450-1557.