Pubdate: Fri, 05 Feb 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Barack Obama, Special to the Journal


We Must Treat Addiction Like Any Other Disease and Aim to Prevent and Treat

Last fall, I listened as a mother named Cary Dixon told her family's 
story at a forum I convened in West Virginia. It was heartbreaking.

Cary's adult son has struggled with a substance use disorder for 
years, and she described the pain that families like hers have gone through.

"We dread the next phone call," she said. "We don't take vacations 
for fear of the next crisis. We come back from vacations because 
there's a crisis."

Cary and her family are far from alone.

As the use of prescription drugs has increased over the past 15 or 20 
years, so has their misuse - as well as the wreckage caused by other 
opioids like heroin. In fact, four in five heroin users started out 
by misusing prescription drugs, and then switched to heroin.

As a consequence, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related 
deaths in America nearly quadrupled.

More Americans now die of drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes.

In New Mexico, overdoses claimed 547 lives in 2014 alone.

This crisis doesn't discriminate. It touches everybody - men and 
women, young and old, rich and poor; urban, suburban and rural alike. 
It affects the coal miner or construction worker who takes pain 
medications for a work-related injury - or the doctor who writes them 
the prescription.

Yet for too long, the stigma of addiction has discouraged too many 
Americans from seeking and receiving the help they deserve. With no 
other disease do we expect people to wait until they're a danger to 
themselves or others to self-diagnose and seek treatment.

So we need to address this disease like we would any other - through 
effective prevention and treatment. We need to educate ourselves, our 
family members, and our communities about the dangers of prescription 
drug misuse as well as the availability of treatment and the hope of recovery.

And we need to make sure every American seeking treatment can get it.

That's why I've directed my administration to address this crisis. 
We've been working with communities to prevent and treat substance 
use disorders, pursue effective law enforcement strategies, reduce 
overdose deaths and support those in recovery.

And in October, I announced plans to train more federal health care 
workers who prescribe opioids, identify barriers to good treatment, 
and rally support from outside of government to help address this epidemic.

But we need to do more to help families like Cary's.

That's why the budget I'm sending to Congress includes $1.1 billion 
in new funding to stop the opioid overdose epidemic - funding to help 
every American seeking treatment get the care they need.

It will help states like New Mexico expand their treatment capacity 
and make services more affordable.

My budget will continue to support education, prevention, drug 
monitoring programs, and law enforcement efforts to keep illegal 
drugs out of our communities.

And finally, it will improve access to the overdose-reversal drug 
naloxone - so that we can save more lives.

These are commonsense steps - steps to help Americans get the 
treatment they need, support law enforcement already stretching their 
resources and support families and communities ravaged by this disease.

I'm encouraged by the bipartisan support we've seen from leaders 
across the country on this issue, and I expect Congress to act. 
Because rather than keep spending billions of taxpayer dollars on 
overly long prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, we can 
save money, improve public safety and achieve better outcomes by 
focusing on getting treatment to those who need it.

This is a crisis that could touch any of us. These kids are our kids. 
These folks are our parents; our brothers and sisters; our neighbors 
and friends. We should treat them that way.

We should take on this issue for their sake. And if we do that, we'll 
not only help our loved ones, we'll help strengthen our families, our 
community and our entire country.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom