Addiction claims the lives of a wide variety of people. No career, socioeconomic level, ethnicity, or background is immune. In the throws of addiction, you may feel alone, but there are millions of people who have walked down the same hard path. A press release by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) quoted statistics that more than 110 Americans die of drug overdoses every day, and that 22.7 million people are in need of recovery treatment, but only 2.5 million are receiving it.

Addiction is an out of control social crisis that needs innovative solutions from all areas of society, including government, to work on stemming the pandemic. Portman worked alongside Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), to create The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014, legislation that attacks the problem of addiction from multiple possible solutions.  Currently still in the Judiciary Committee, this bill will infuse between $40 million and $80 million to encourage a wide variety of programs to deal with problems of drug addiction, especially opioid painkiller abuse.

Legislative Details

The proposed legislation is 74 pages, and rejects the notion that there is one simple panacea that can eliminate drug use entirely. Thus, it calls for multiple programs and ways of dealing with the addiction crisis.  Different parts include (section in quotes are from a congressional press release summarizing the proposal):

“Expanding prevention and educational efforts,” particularly aimed at more vulnerable populations, including teens, parents, and aging populations to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery. Many people do not recognize the danger of experimenting with prescription drugs, or of using them outside the prescription guidelines, so helping them realize the truth can be a big part in preventing dangerous behavior.

Many addicts may be in denial about their condition, or may be so hopeless they do not know feel recovery is possible. It is important to make all these groups of people aware of the resources available for recovery.

1. “Expand the availability of naloxone,” a medication that can counter the life threatening effects of an opioid or heroin overdose, saving someone’s life by allowing them to breathe normally. Giving the injection to people in law enforcement agencies and first responders could save many lives of people, kept alive to then pursue recovery.

2.“Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction disorders promptly by collaborating with criminal justice stakeholders and by providing evidence-based treatment.” The method of simply locking people up “punishing” them for abusing drugs is not working.  Simply alienating them from society often does nothing but make them better addicts.

Many criminal justice systems across the country have enjoyed a great deal of success with innovative programs that treat the condition of drug abuse, rather then punish the person that can be expanded. Expanding the access of recovery for people in prisons can do a lot towards truly rehabilitating them.

3.“Launch an evidence-based opioid and heroin treatment and interventions program to expand treatment best practices throughout the country.” Opioid drug abuse is among the most rapidly increasing drug addiction problem, and it needs more emphasis. There is some exciting research being done to show treatment plans, including medications that can relieve cravings and physical symptoms, freeing someone up to pursue others aspects of recovery.

4.“Strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs to help states monitor and track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals access services.” This will do more to limit the level of access that addicts have in accessing inappropriate levels of a prescription drug, making addiction and overdoses less likely, and monitoring troubling behavior, encouraging people to seek treatment.

5.“Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications.” Many teenagers start inappropriately using prescription drugs recreationally after getting them from home or finding them thrown away.  Having safe and secure places for people to get rid of painkillers they no longer need will go a long way towards making sure they don’t fall into the hands of someone who will use them non-medically.

What You Can Do

The bill was written in September 16, 2014, and as of this writing (December 5, 2014), it is still in committee, not yet being voted on. As a citizen, your voice can be a powerful incentive in encouraging this legislation to be voted on and approved. You can find the contact information for your states’ senators here, and call them to voice support for SB2839 – The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.