How Washington Could Do A Better Job Fighting Heroin Epidemic


The anti-heroin initiative unveiled by the Obama administration this week, a one-year, $2.5 million plan to track the flow of drugs through the Northeastern states and other “high-intensity” regions, certainly can't hurt but the White House isn't pretending that its new initiative will conquer the problem and nor should anyone else, the Washington Post says in an editorial. Two out of every 1,000 Americans were addicted to heroin in 2013, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, double the rate in 2002. There were 8,200 heroin-related overdose deaths in 2013; the number of such deaths per 100,000 people nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. The heroin epidemic is an unintended consequence of what had previously been thought to be a great medical advance: the rise of prescription opioid pain medications.

One key advance is the use of state-level electronic databases to track the dispensing of opioids; additional federal funds for these programs were part of $133 million in new spending to curb opioid overprescription in President Obama's fiscal 2016 budget, and those dollars would probably do as much or more to fight heroin abuse than anything specifically targeted at heroin, says the Post. The newspaper says it would help if the federal government could find a way to speak with a single voice on this issue. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration baffled many officials in heroin-ravaged states by approving a new opioid despite a negative recommendation from its own expert advisory panel. This month, the FDA approved the powerful opioid OxyContin for use in patients as young as 11. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA) denounced this this as a “reckless act.”

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