Obama turns drug fight to opioid abuse
Atlanta – — The trajectory of opioid deaths in the United States is trending in the wrong direction and has to be moved to the top of the federal government’s radar screen along with the threat of terrorism and promoting a strong economy, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.
Obama said more people are being killed from opioid overdoses than from traffic accidents. “I think the public doesn’t fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem,” Obama told about 2,000 people attending the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit.
Obama’s appearance at the conference came as his administration issued proposed regulations and announced new funding for states to purchase and distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug, naloxone, and to train first responders and others on its use.
Opioids are highly addictive drugs that include both prescription painkillers like codeine and morphine, as well as illegal narcotics, primarily heroin. Deaths linked to opioids soared to more than 29,000 in 2014.
Congress is attempting to allocate more resources to confront the problem, one of few areas where bipartisan agreement may be reached during the election year. But the White House is critical of a Senate bill it says lacks critical funding. Obama is seeking $1.1 billion in new money to expand treatment for opioid addiction.
Republican senators note that the authorization bill, along with $400 million appropriated a few months earlier for opioid-specific programs, would still make important strides.
Health officials who address the conference earlier Tuesday said doctor training will be key.
“Changes must start with us,” said Dr. Patrice Harris, chairman of an American Medical Association task force on the crisis.
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