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Congress works to find consensus on opioid bills

By Alison Laurio, News contributor

“It’s a problem that affects Americans in all parts of the country. It doesn’t discriminate across socio-economic lines, distinguish between urban, suburban and rural, or limit itself to the young or old.”

With those words, U.S. Rep Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., addressed his constituents in an email sent May 23.

Saying the country is “in the throes of an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and heroin use,” he called the statistics “shocking.”

About 46,000 Americans die from drug overdoses every year, and communities in Virginia “are not immune,” Goodlatte wrote.

Goodlatte is on a conference committee where members of Congress will “work out the differences between opioid abuse bills passed by both chambers,” he wrote. He was not available for comment, and no conference date had been set by press time in June.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) addresses a nationwide opioid addiction problem, focusing on prevention; recovery and treatment; law enforcement; services for women, families and veterans; encouraging states’ initiatives; drug trafficking; and the justice system.

The Senate passed its bill in March. The House, which had passed more than a dozen amending bills, passed its version May 13.

For years, government health agencies have tracked the problem, social workers have treated it, and communities have noted the death toll. Now that legislation is in the works, many are calling for funding to back the initiatives.

In a 2013 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the United States “is in the midst of an unprecedented drug overdose epidemic. Drug overdose death rates have increased five-fold since 1980. By 2009, drug overdose deaths outnumbered deaths due to motor vehicle crashes for the first time in the U.S.”

The National Center for Health Statistics released a fact sheet in March that includes these recent findings:

• Since 2000, the age-adjusted drug-poisoning death rate more than doubled, from 6.2 per 100,000 in 2000 to 14.7 per 100,000 in 2014.

• In 2014, 47,055 deaths involved drug poisoning. Of these, 82 percent were unintentional, 12 percent were suicides and 6 percent were of undetermined intent.

• The age-adjusted rate for deaths involving opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled, from 1.5 per 100,000 in 2000 to 5.9 per 100,000 in 2014.

• In 2014, nearly 65 percent of all deaths from opioid analgesics involved natural and semisynthetic opioid analgesics, such as hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone.

• From 2000 to 2014, drug-poisoning death rates increased 2.7-fold for females and 2.2-fold for males.

• From 2000 to 2014, drug-poisoning death rates nearly tripled for non-Hispanic white persons and increased 1.4-fold for non-Hispanic black persons and for Hispanic persons.

• The drug-poisoning death rate is highest for adults aged 45 to 54.

From the July 2016 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story here.

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