Weekly Columns

Bringing the Fight Against Opioid Abuse to Congress

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Washington, April 27, 2016 | Tiffany Haverly (202-226-8072) | comments

Did you know that Tennessee has the second highest rate of prescriptions per person in the United States? According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) 2014 report, nonmedical pain reliever use is the second most common type of illicit drug use in the United States. In 2014, an estimated 27 million Americans aged 12 or older had used illicit drugs, including the nonmedical use of prescription pain relievers, within a month of being surveyed. Further, the report found that substance abuse alone is estimated to cost Americans more than $600 billion annually. Because opioid abuse continues to be a serious threat to public health, Saturday, April 30, 2016, will be the 11th annual National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, an event coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency and local law enforcement. Take-back events are being held across the country, including the First District, to provide a safe and convenient way for Tennesseans to dispose of unused and expired prescription medications.

Unfortunately, Tennessee is no stranger to opioid abuse, and last year the Tennessee Department of Health announced that opioid overdoses had reached epidemic proportions. This staggering and tragic fact doesn’t just affect adults, Tennessee children are suffering as well. As an OBGYN, I’ve seen firsthand what addiction can do to innocent children, especially newborn babies. According to the Tennessee Department of Health’s most recent data on Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), 43 cases of NAS were reported in the January 2016 alone. Last year’s data shows that 986 cases of NAS were reported across the state of Tennessee in 2015, and that Sullivan County had the highest reported cases of NAS statewide.

The State of Tennessee released a strategic plan, Prescription for Success: Statewide Strategies to Prevent and Treat the Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic in Tennessee, highlighting some important information as well as strategies that can be used to help address this serious problem. According to this plan, most non-medical use of prescription drugs originates from a legitimate prescription. To me, this further underscores, in part, the importance of proper disposal of prescription medications. This is why I partnered with Dr. Ami Bera, a Democrat from California to introduce H.R. 2463, the Dispose Responsibly of your Pills (DROP) Act. The DROP Act would authorize the Attorney General to work with the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to establish grant programs to encourage proper disposal of unwanted or expired medications.

In May, the House plans to take aggressive action and put forth a plan to address opioid and other drug abuse around the country. As co-chair of the House GOP Doctors Caucus, I believe physicians in Congress are in a position to present responsible solutions, and I’m confident we can work across party lines to address this serious issue. Last year, the Doctors Caucus met with Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to discuss this and many other public health issues. SG Murthy told us that combating opioid abuse would be a priority for the administration, and I hope we’re able to find a bipartisan path forward.

Click here for more information on where you can bring unused or expired medications at a take-back events being held around the country on April 30th.
 
Feel free to contact my office if I can be of assistance to you or your family. 
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