President Barack Obama has called for more funding and a different approach to helping people addicted to heroin and prescription drugs end their addiction.
During an appearance at a drug abuse summit in Atlanta, Obama stated that opioid overdoses killed more people in the United States than traffic accidents has, and compared the importance of addressing the issue to that of fighting ISIS.
“It’s costing lives and it’s devastating communities,” Obama said while participating in a panel with recovering addicts and medical professionals. He said efforts to fight the epidemic were grossly underfunded.
Earlier this year, Obama asked the U.S. Congress for $1.1 billion in new funding over two years to expand treatment for the epidemic, and opioid addiction has become an issue in the 2016 presidential campaign. In 2014, a record number of Americans died from drug overdoses, with the highest rates seen in West Virginia, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Ohio. Obama said he needs Congress to give the funds to help expand treatment, particularly in rural areas.
Obama has pressed for addiction to be framed as a medical problem rather than a legal issue. He said:
“For too long we have viewed the problem of drug abuse generally in our society through the lens of the criminal justice system.”
Meanwhile the Obama administration announced $11 million in grants for up to 11 states to help expand medication-assisted treatment. Plus, another $11 million for states to buy and distribute naloxone, a drug that treats an overdose in an emergency situation.
The Health and Human Services Department is also proposing a new rule for buprenorphine, a medication used to help reduce or quit the use of heroin and painkillers. The rule would allow physicians who are qualified to prescribe the medication to double their patient limit to 200. The White House said the measure would expand treatment for tens of thousands of people.
Source: The New York Times