Ending the cycle of abuse should be at the top of the list for the next Congress and presidential administration.
Of all the issues that pushed Pennsylvanians to the polls this week, none is more challenging, more pernicious or more deadly than the epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse.
To get an idea of how vicious the heroin epidemic has become, you don’t have to look any further than your own neighborhood. If you haven’t been personally affected, then the chances are good that someone you know has.
And the cost is high.
The University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health found that fatal drug overdoses in Pennsylvania increased 14-fold between 1979 and 2014.
The rise in abuse is most often attributed to the overprescription of opioid-based drugs. Authorities on the issue blame these drugs for opening up the doors to heroin. Heroin is highly addictive.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, in 2011, 4.2 million Americans aged 12 or older (or 1.6 percent) had used heroin at least once in their lives. It is estimated that about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.
In the Trust for America’s Health’s 2015 report, Pennsylvania ranked fourth-highest among the states for its rate of drug overdose deaths for teenagers and young adults. The national rate is 7.3 per 100,000; Pennsylvania’s rate is 11.8 per 100,000.
President Barack Obama has escalated his administration’s fight on three different fronts: expanding access to treatment, preventing overdose deaths, and increasing community prevention strategies.
“Expanding access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid-use disorders has been a top priority for this administration. Research clearly shows that this approach, when combined with behavioral therapies, is more effective at sustaining recovery and preventing overdose,” Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told CNN in March.
While Obama White House is making strides, the next president must develop a strategy to overcome the heroin epidemic. This includes dismantling a network of doctors, addicts, and drug dealers.
The leading presidential candidates — Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, who won in Pennsylvania and other states in Tuesday’s Acela Primary — have each spoken out on the issue.
The same holds true from Democrat Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and John Kasich of Ohio.
Clinton, for instance, has called for spending $10 billion to fight what she described as a “quiet epidemic” in a 2015 op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader, PBS’ Frontline program noted in a special report outlining the candidates’ stances on the issue.
According to Frontline, “Clinton’s plan would widen access to treatment and recovery programs, in part through a new $7.5 billion partnership between states and the federal government.”
Cruz and Trump have offered little in the way of specifics, but they have called for securing the southern border with Mexico to fight the flow of drugs, Frontline reported.
These “Candidates” Need to wake up…