President Obama Launches Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week

by Jeffrey Juergens ❘  

Acknowledging a Crisis: Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week

Our nation has endured the grip of prescription opioid and heroin abuse for far too long. When someone suffers from a heroin or opioid addiction, they’re unable to fight the compulsive need to use these harmful substances.Without treatment, a person’s addiction can spiral out of control and devastate family members, loved ones and their entire community.

Last Friday, President Obama officially proclaimed this week as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week to address the nationwide effects of heroin and prescription opioid addiction. From Sept. 16 to Sept. 24, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices will facilitate over 250 events across the U.S. that will raise awareness about the dangers of opioid and heroin abuse.

During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.

- President Obama, in his proclamation to the United States

In addition, the President continues to call for Congress to approve $1.1 billion in new funding toward making sure every American with an opioid abuse disorder can get treatment.

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Actions For Fighting Back Opioid and Heroin Abuse

While several tactics have been put into place to address the epidemic, the Obama Administration and other Federal agencies will announce additional measures during Awareness Week.

We’ve broken down some of the top initiatives our nation can expect to be announced during the nationwide events this week:

More Evidence-based Prevention and Treatment Programs

Evidence-based approaches are based on survey data and research that shows what treatment and prevention programs work – and what doesn’t.  

By understanding what causes drug abuse in communities through actual evidence, better preventive tactics and treatment options can be put into place.

In addition, the Administration will introduce:

  • Additional funding for prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs)
  • Television and radio PSAs about the dangers of opioid abuse
  • Letters sent by the Department of Education to educators about their role in youth substance abuse education

Reducing the Trafficking of Fentanyl into the U.S.

Many of the nation’s recent overdoses have been attributed to fentanyl, which is a strong and fast-acting synthetic opioid that, when taken, mimics the effects of heroin.

A majority of fentanyl is brought into the U.S. by drug traffickers from China. Earlier this month, the Administration announced a partnership with China to combat the drug traffickers who bring fentanyl into our nation.

More Awareness About Naloxone For Reversing Opioid Overdoses

Some day, your smartphone could play a role in saving lives from opioid and heroin overdoses. The Food and Drug Administration announced a naloxone mobile app development competition this week.

A Naloxone mobile app could help people quickly identify and react to the event of an opioid overdose.

Winners will receive $40,000 and become eligible to apply for grants to further develop the app and save more lives from an opioid overdose.

Assisting America’s Rural and Tribal Communities

This week, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced its $4.7 million investment in Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) programs. These programs are vastly needed by rural communities afflicted by the heroin and opioid crisis. In addition, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa will receive a loan to build new treatment centers, providing more ways of treating drug and alcohol abuse disorders.

Expanding Overall Treatment Access in the Country

Far too many Americans need treatment, but are unable to receive it due to lack of available resources. During Awareness Week, the Administration will announce increased funding for veteran drug and alcohol rehab centers.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also finalized rules about patient prescription limit increases for buprenorphine this week. Medical practitioners can now prescribe buprenorphine to 275 patients – the previous limit was 100. This greatly improves access to the drug, which is often used in medication-assisted therapy (MAT) for patients in heroin or opioid addiction treatment.

How Can You Help Raise Awareness?

The launch of the Awareness Week is a big step toward shedding light on the nation’s heroin and prescription opioid crisis. But even just one person has the power to fight back illicit drug abuse.

Here’s some easy ways you can start the conversation:

  • Join a local club or organization that promotes healthy and substance-free ways of living.
  • Log onto your social media accounts and share articles or videos about the dangers of drug abuse.
  • Listen to who’s around you. If you overhear a friend, roommate or family member talk about abusing drugs, talk to them.

We hope that by raising awareness about opioid and heroin abuse, more people affected by nationwide epidemic can get the treatment they need and deserve.

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