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Foster Introduces Legislation To Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Sep 19, 2014
Press Release

Washington, DC – Today, Representatives Bill Foster (IL-11) and Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18) introduced the Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This legislation would help to deter prescription drug abuse and assist individuals in receiving treatment for addiction.

Text of the legislation is available here.

“Easy access to prescription drugs is leading too many young people down the path of addiction and opening the door to abuse of other opioids like heroin. Families in my district are being torn apart, and lives are being ruined. We must do more to combat prescription drug abuse and increase access to live saving drugs like Naloxone,” said Foster. “That’s why I am introducing this legislation to improve existing programs and develop additional initiatives and avenues to treat and prevent addiction.”

“When I talk to law enforcement, parents, and school officials, I hear the heart wrenching stories of how the heroin and prescription drug epidemic is hurting far too many of our families, friends and neighbors,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney. “In addition to continuing our work with law enforcement and local community organizations, Congress needs to be a partner by expanding existing treatment programs, expanding new resources for law enforcement and increasing access to the life-saving antidote Narcan.” 

This legislation would work to combat the prescription drug abuse epidemic in several ways. First, it would create a program to analyze prescribing behavior and share information about improper prescribing with the state health profession board. Second, it would encourage states to implement drug take-back programs to allow people to dispense of unused prescription drugs. Next, this bill would equip doctors with more resources to help identify potential drug abuse patients, by providing funds to train more personnel in interventions and patient screening. 

Additionally, the bill would increase access to non-addictive, lifesaving drugs like Naloxone.  The legislation would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to conduct a review to determine whether Naloxone should have over-the-counter drug status.  It would also provide grants to study the possibility of allowing advanced nurses and physician’s assistants to prescribe drugs that assist in addiction recovery.

Community programs that provide brief training and equip potential bystanders and emergency responders with Naloxone have demonstrated large reductions in opioid related fatalities. Unfortunately, Naloxone is still considered a prescription drug, enacting large barriers to wide distribution. Multiple states have tackled this issue by implementing liability laws that increase access to Naloxone. However, the only way to effectively place Naloxone in the hands of all those who need it is by making it available over-the-counter.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health crisis that affects people of every race, income, and educational level. In 2010 alone, opioids contributed to over 16,000 deaths. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2011 National Survey on Drug Abuse, 1.7 million 12 to 15 year olds abused prescription drugs for the first time, amounting to more than 4,500 per day. Moreover, each year drug abuse and addiction costs over $534 billion, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that we could save $4-$7 in criminal justice costs for every dollar invested in treatment and prevention.

As the White House Office of National Drug Policy notes, the rise in prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse are interconnected. According to the NIDA, 1 in 15 people who take non-medical prescription pain relievers will try heroin within 10 years. Prescription drugs are highly addictive, but also extremely costly, leading many to seek out heroin, which is often available for a fraction of the price.