June 1, 2015
Drug overdoses are on the rise across Ohio.
In 2013, we saw a record 2,110 fatal overdoses in our state. Opioid abuse in particular has wreaked havoc across Ohio, devastating thousands of families. When it’s easier for Americans to access opioids than it is for them access help to treat their addiction, we have a serious problem.
That’s why I worked across the aisle to introduce the bipartisan Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act), which would allow health care providers to treat larger numbers of patients struggling with addiction to opioids like painkillers and heroin.
Current law limits the number of patients a health care provider can treat for opioid abuse problems using medication-assisted treatment programs. This has left patients to languish on waiting lists for critical treatment.
My bill would update U.S. law to enable qualified physicians to treat larger numbers of patients struggling with addiction and, for the first time, allow certain nurse practitioners and physician assistants to provide supervised, medication-assisted treatment for patients.
We must ensure that there are a variety of treatment options available for those who need help battling addiction, including effective medication-assisted treatment. By allowing doctors to treat more patients and utilize medication-assisted treatment in combination with behavioral health support, we can change the course for treating opioid addiction for the better.
Opioid addiction is a chronic disease that, when left untreated, places a large burden on our health care system. Deaths from opioid overdoses in the United States have increased by more than five times since 1980. Each year, about 475,000 emergency room visits are attributable to the misuse and abuse of opioid pain killers across the U.S.
We also need to do more to get drugs out of wrongful hands. Too many Ohioans can easily get prescription drugs from the family medicine cabinet or from family and friends who no longer use the medicines they were legally prescribed.
That’s why last week I, along with several of my Senate colleagues, sent a letter to Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging her to reinstate the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Take-Back Days. This program has successfully provided Americans with the opportunity to safely turn over unwanted, unneeded and expired medications so they don’t end up in the hands of people who may abuse them.
Last September’s Take-Back Day in Ohio featured 194 sites available for safe drug disposal throughout the state, and was a tremendous success.
Abuse of prescription drugs — especially painkillers — can devastate communities. We can and must do more to keep these medications out of the hands of those who abuse them, and to get Ohioans dealing with addiction the help that they need.
Sherrod Brown is a U.S. Senator from Ohio