No time to waste in addressing opioid crisis
Posted on December 5, 2017 20:21 pm CST
By Congressman Billy Long,
Our nation is in a state of crisis. The opioid crisis plaguing our nation has claimed many lives. This addiction does not discriminate. Its effects are felt in homes throughout the United States, and, for me, it’s an issue that hits close to home. I’ve said before, through the years I have had several close friends lose children to this epidemic. Over the last several years, the Energy and Commerce Committee, of which I am a member, has worked hard to find solutions and save lives.
In October, the Energy and Commerce Committee held a full committee hearing addressing opioids, which include oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine. It examined recent efforts to combat opioid abuse, where those efforts have taken us and problems arising from opioid abuse.
The committee examined the implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act and the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA), which were signed into law last year. Both bills work toward improving treatment for substance abuse and expanding access to overdose medications and addiction services. They also provide states with resources to tackle this problem. 21st Century Cures provides $1 billion in grants for states to combat drug abuse. In September, the Department of Health and Human Services released $144.1 million in additional grants through CARA to help states combat addiction.
Oversight investigations into effective controls of opioid prescriptions have revealed many rural areas are inundated with opioids. Less than 400 people live in Kermit, West Virginia. Yet, in just two years one local pharmacy processed 9 million opioid pills. It’s a phenomenon called pill dumping, which involves distributing large amounts of controlled substances to small populations. And Kermit isn’t the only town to suffer from its ramifications. Oceana, West Virginia, a town of about 1,300 just east of Kermit, is also dealing with this same problem. Between 2005 and 2016, a pharmacy in this town received 600 times the amount of oxycodone pills as another pharmacy just down the street.
Over the last year, the Energy and Commerce Committee has made bipartisan efforts to find solutions to this problem. The committee has sent multiple letters with detailed questions to the Drug Enforcement Administration as well as held hearings asking the DEA these same questions. Its response has been deafening — silence. The DEA has neglected to provide the committee with any of the requested information. The DEA’s lack of urgency and cooperation is both troubling and unacceptable.
Families across the country are dealing with these dark realities for too long. Ninety-one lives are lost daily due to this epidemic; there is no time to waste. Opioid abuse is among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States. Sadly, every part of this country has fallen victim to this disease.