How President Obama’s Prescription Opioid and Heroin Initiative Affects Those Seeking Treatment

The President Obama administration has committed to raising awareness of the current opioid abuse crisis and improving treatment access for those in need. A dedicated awareness weekbrought with it widespread attention and open conversation. Lingering stigma still stands in the way of those who need treatment for addiction; further education and awareness are critical.

Deaths from prescription opioid and heroin use have quadrupled over the past seven years. Quadrupled.

Every nineteen minutes, someone dies from an overdose.

While the opioid crisis and its counterparts have been key storylines in the media over the last several years, it never fails to shock me when I hear that someone else has lost their life due to drug abuse. As the sister of an addict, I can’t help but feel overwhelmingly sad as the numbers keep rising and the stigmas surrounding addiction and mental health remain the same.

Though under unfortunate circumstances, this crisis has gotten so much attention over the last year and a half—starting markedly with the announcement that over 47,000 people died due to opioid abuse in 2014—that the President has designated an entire week devoted to awareness of the opioid and heroin epidemic. This annual awareness week’s first observance was September 19–23, 2016. In addition, he has requested that over a billion dollars be devoted to this devastating cause in order to keep fighting for those who struggle daily with addiction.

An Ongoing Battlefield: Increasing Treatment Access for Those in Need

One of the Obama administration’s priorities for the last several years has been to raise an acute and immediate awareness of the current opioid crisis. In his asking for just over a billion dollars from the federal budget in June 2016, President Obama’s goals went beyond making addiction and mental health treatment more affordable—they aimed to increase coverage overall by making treatment facilities and services more readily available to those in need.

These dollars will be spread amongst varied initiatives and facets of the related health industry, with special emphasis on creating more treatment and medical opportunities. Here are several of the efforts being made to help turn around this incredibly pressing and culturally defining issue:

  • 11 million dollars slated to help state-owned medication-assisted treatment programs nationwide
  • 94 million dollars toward funding over 250 community health centers around the country
  • 7 million dollars through the Department of Justice to police, investigate, and understand heroin distribution in order to gradually decrease availability
  • In the TRICARE system for military personnel and families, substance use disorder treatment will expand to include treatment for opioid use disorders and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs)
  • Supporting distance learning and telemedicine programs that expand access to health care, substance use disorder treatment, and educational opportunities in rural communities

Though these are just a handful of the ways the President and his staff are committing to turn around the current drug abuse emergency, they will begin a positive chain reaction to help communities and the public understand addiction as a disease while lending helping hands to those who cope with it daily.

Opioid Epidemic Awareness Week Successes

Funded efforts to increase coverage and availability are vastly important and necessary in order to curb the progression of this epidemic. But raising awareness and speaking openly about the crisis within communities and larger social scopes are also vital components of fighting this war. Obama’s proclamation of this awareness week opened up gateways of conversation in federal prisons, high schools, colleges, and treatment centers nationwide, with talks and speeches by attorney general Loretta Lynch and DEA administrator Chuck Rosenburg.

The Drug Enforcement Administration also initiated a PSA campaign aired on a plethora of radio stations, morning talk shows on major networks such as CBS and NBC, and different webcasts, with the help of popular actor and host Mario Lopez. Each of the platforms directs the public to their website, where facts and resources are offered to those struggling with addiction and to those advocating for the cause. Perhaps the most emotionally-charged and effective piece of the campaign is the promotion of the DEA’s film, Chasing the Dragon, that tells the stories of prescription opioid addicts.

Dr. Deeni Bassam, a board-certified anesthesiologist and pain specialist, knows that it can happen to anyone: after a bad day, after a lost job, after an injury. “That’s how this problem always starts,” she says in the crushingly honest and eye-opening documentary, recognizing that many people can’t refuse the allure of a pill or script that eases pain of any variety. Hearing the stories of people who might not otherwise be recognized as addicts is vastly important in the fight against addiction-related stigmas and the advocacy for more widely-available treatment.

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What Do These Initiatives Mean for Those in Need of Treatment?

Millions of dollars will be fueled into building new treatment facilities and expanding upon others, allowing struggling addicts and those seeking help with drug abuse to feel like they are being cared for—in areas that otherwise have limited treatment options. Laura Jones, a clinician in rural West Virginia, recognizes that “access is the biggest problem for rural communities. It’s [what] keeps them stuck in the cycle of abuse.” The distance from centers in rural America is undoubtedly one of the largest factors in the largely stagnant recovery rate in the opioid crisis—many of those who live in such communities may not have reliable transportation or funds to pay for gas to get to treatment centers and begin to end the abuse.

Furthermore, no matter where you live, addicts and their families still face stigmas. Educating yourself about drug addiction and consequently releasing these stigmas are crucial steps in helping those who cope with the disease on a daily basis. Awareness and understanding of substance abuse are our responsibilities as citizens of the communities, towns, cities, and other locales where it occurs; addiction is a public health issue. As members of the public, we must all commit to learning that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing, and to not turn a blind eye to something that affects us all in ways we may not even be able to see.

Though proper treatment is essential to anyone facing opioid addiction, residential treatment centersare especially supportive options for those who may not be able to commute and need to be fully removed from their environments, as healing takes place in one location. Seeking out and receiving treatment will always be difficult, as this journey involves many difficult and undefinable emotions, but these are the first steps in your commitment to coping and living with your addiction—and loving yourself throughout.

Alta Mira offers individualized programs to meet your specific needs in an all-inclusive and compassionate environment. These programs can offer you new perspective and hope for your future. Prescription and non-prescription opioid abuse does not have to be in control—reach out to us todayfor help on the path to recovery.