Obama Administration Hosts Opioid Addiction Summit

By Shawn Dwyer 06/19/14

Attorney General Eric Holder was one of several prominent figures on hand to deliver remarks on the nation’s growing battle with heroin addiction.

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On Thursday, the Obama administration hosted a Summit on Opioids via the Office of National Drug Control Policy to address the increasing number of overdose deaths across the country.

Attending the summit were Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the ONDCP; Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who earlier in the year dedicated his entire state of the state speech to tackle the “full blown heroin crisis” in his state; Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

According to statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the number of drug overdose deaths more than doubled from 1999-2010, with many coming from the boom of prescription opioids during that period. The explosion in opioid prescription drugs led to a drastic rise in heroin abuse because of its cheap price and widespread availability.

"What we're seeing is an increase on the heroin side in terms of national statistics, and no decline on the prescription drug side," said Leonard Paulozzi, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

Attorney General Eric Holder delivered prepared remarks at the summit praising the work done by the ONDCP, while cautioning that much more needed to be done. He pointed to the increase in the number of heroin-related investigations and noted how 320% more heroin has been seized at the border. Holder also said a law enforcement approach must be accompanied by education, prevention, and treatment.

In the end, Holder sounded a strong, but all-too-familiar tone. “We will never waver in our commitment to act aggressively to keep America’s streets safe and our children free from drug addiction and abuse. And we will never stop being tough on crime and the choices that breed it.”

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Shawn Dwyer is a writer, editor and content producer living in Los Angeles. You can find him on Linkedin.