Helping News                                                 November, 2015   Issue 89

​White House Fact Sheet Release- October 21, 2015

More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes and the majority of those overdoses involve prescription medications. Health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain medications in 2012 – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills. Opioids are a class of prescription pain medications that includes hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone. Heroin belongs to the same class of drugs, and four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription opioid pain medications.

In 2010, the President released his first National Drug Control Strategy, which emphasized the need for action to address opioid use disorders and overdose, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive safe, effective treatment. Since then, the Administration has supported and expanded community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, improve prescribing practices for pain medication, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery.

The most recent data show that the rate of overdoses involving prescription pain medication is leveling off, although it remains at an unacceptably high level. But the dramatic rise in heroin-related overdoses – which nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013 – shows the opioid crisis is far from over.

President Obama released a memorandum to federal departments and agencies. There are two approaches outlined to decrease heroin and prescription drug abuse. The first is ensuring that health care professionals are trained in proper prescription use and consequences of controlled substances. The second part is to improve access for treatment services, including removing barriers for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders and alternative approaches to pain management, often the original reason for an opioid prescription. 

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