President Obama Announces New Plan To Fight Heroin, Prescription Drug Abuse

By John Lavitt 10/22/15

The president continues his efforts to combat the growing opioid epidemic.

President Barack Obama
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President Obama issued a memorandum designed to combat the opioid epidemic in the forms of prescription drug abuse and heroin use. The goal of the memorandum is to provide more opioid prescription training to medical professionals and greater access to medication-assisted treatment options.

As part of the announcement, President Obama traveled to West Virginia yesterday to hear directly from individuals and families affected by the epidemic. The president is also consulting with healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, and community leaders working to prevent addiction and respond to its aftermath.

President Obama heightened response reflects the intensity of the opioid epidemic. More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than motor vehicle crashes, and the majority of those overdoses involve prescription medications. In terms of prescriber training, healthcare providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012. The staggering number equals enough for every adult to have a bottle of opioid painkillers.

In West Virginia, the president announced federal, state, local and private sector efforts aimed at addressing the problem. A major part of these efforts is opioid prescriber education and training. The initiative includes commitments by more than 40 provider groups, representing doctors, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, and educators. The goal is that more than 540,000 healthcare providers will complete opioid prescriber training in the next two years.

To raise awareness in the public sector of the dangers of the opioid epidemic, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, Google, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball, and other companies will donate media space. Millions of dollars in media space will be used for public service announcements produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids about the risks of prescription drug misuse.

The second main goal of President Obama’s efforts is to improve access to treatment for prescription drug abuse and heroin use, directing the government to identify barriers to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. The president wants to double the number of physicians certified to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder treatment, from 30,000 to 60,000 over the next three years. His initiative also intends to double the number of healthcare providers registered with their State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the next two years.

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.