President Barack Obama Talks Prescription Drugs In Weekly Address

By Keri Blakinger 09/30/15

The President wants you to give back your unused prescription medications.

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President Barack Obama
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On Sept. 26, President Barack Obama delivered another one of his weekly addresses to the nation. One of the key points was his intention to address drug abuse, particularly with prescription drugs. The address aired on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

“More Americans now die every year of overdoses than they do in car crashes,” he told viewers. Most of those deaths aren’t from illegal drugs, but from prescription drugs. In 2013, more than 16,000 American overdosed on prescription painkillers.

As is well known to many addicts, it’s not uncommon to switch from painkillers to harder stuff. In fact, four out of five heroin users kicked off their addictions by misusing prescription drugs.

Though it might be readily apparent from the onslaught of news coverage, the number of heroin addicts is on the rise. Between 2013 and 2014, there was a 33% increase in the number of heroin users in the country.

That sort of uptick in drug use hurts communities, according to Obama. “It costs all of us in so many different ways,” he said.

To help tackle the problem, four years ago the Obama administration announced its Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan.

“We’ve been partnering with communities to combat overdoses, and we’re seeing some promising results,” he said. In the hope of building on those results, Obama said that this year’s budget includes more money for drug monitoring programs, properly equipping first responders, and expanding medication-assisted treatment programs, even in prisons.

“Getting smarter about how we address substance abuse disorders is a vital part of reforming our criminal justice system,” he said.

Instead of spending an exorbitant amount on incarcerating nonviolent drug offenders, Obama said “we could save money and get better outcomes by getting treatment to those who need it.” He added, “With no other disease do we expect people to wait until they’re a danger to themselves or others to self-diagnose and seek treatment. So we should approach abuse as an opportunity to intervene, not incarcerate.”

The President signed off by promising to talk about the topic more in the coming weeks.

Watch the President's address here:

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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