The United States is in the grips of one of the most insidious addiction crises in our history, driven not by illicit drugs purchased in clandestine transactions, but ones made available in retail outlets by trusted professionals.
More than 63,000 people died from a drug overdose in 2016 – roughly 174 people every day. Two-thirds of these 2016 overdose deaths involved an opioid. In Minnesota, the increase in drug overdose death rates from 2015 to 2016 was one of the most significant in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 672 Minnesotans died from opioid overdoses in 2016 alone.
We are losing our family members, friends and loved ones.
Part of the Republican promise to keep communities safe includes combatting this crisis head on. To date, the U.S. House has passed over 50 bills, including the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which I was proud to cosponsor, and the 21st Century Cures Act, which was signed into law late 2016, and I also supported.
These bills are specifically designed to improve and expand access to treatment and recovery services, help prevent addiction by encouraging opioid alternatives to treat pain, give law enforcement tools to rid our communities of dangerous drugs, and crack down on synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which is 100x stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death (formally prescription painkillers) in this crisis.
To be clear: While more resources for our states are needed, Congress can do more than just sign checks. There are a number of outdated laws that prevent individuals from getting treatment, such as overcoming obstacles to increase the number of beds available for those who need treatment.
The focus of our addiction crisis has been almost solely on opioids, but the results of these bills will benefit people with other addiction issues. This complex problem will not be solved by a simple solution, but by on-going and honest discussions about what is working and what is not.
As part of the Congressional Heroin Caucus, my colleagues and I are working on bold solutions to turn the tide and to bring help for the individuals and families afflicted by addiction.