Obama to announce plans to fight heroin use

21 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Coal industry supporters set rally in Charleston.

WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to announce steps on Wednesday that he hopes will reduce an alarming rise in deaths from drug overdoses, including mandating more training for federal doctors and requiring federal health insurance plans to provide treatment for addiction. Obama will make an announcement at a forum in West Virginia, where addiction to prescription painkillers has devastated communities for more than a decade. “Since the start of this administration and the president’s inaugural drug strategy, we identified prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse as crucial problems,” a senior White House official said in an interview on Tuesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to preview Mr. In trying to address the epidemic, the Obama administration has gradually sought to curb out-of-control prescribing practices while ensuring that cancer patients and others in profound pain can get the treatment they need. Last year, the federal government tightened rules for prescribing hydrocodone, the most commonly prescribed painkiller, which is present in such drugs as Vicodin.

A recent federal survey found that 4.3 million Americans had engaged in nonmedical use of prescription painkillers, and 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids in 2012 — enough to give every adult American 75 pills. Austin, Ind., a small town near the Kentucky border, recently had one of the most concentrated outbreaks of H.I.V. in the world as addicts passed around needles. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let them destroy a state and a country without putting up a fight,” said Mr.

Predatory sales practices by companies such as Purdue Pharma — which in 2007 pleaded guilty to criminal charges that it had misled doctors and patients when it claimed that its painkiller was less likely to be abused than traditional narcotics — have also contributed to the epidemic. Manchin said that part of the problem was a lack of jobs in Appalachia, and he blamed the administration’s clean air and climate policies for dire effects on the local coal industry. “There’s a broader point that the president fully understands, that there is a link between social conditions and addiction,” the official said.

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