President Obama’s Plan to Tackle the Opiate Epidemic


Connor Arturi ’17 – Inside Politics

America is currently enduring a quiet epidemic that is affecting all realms of its population; the young and old as well as all classes of society have all fallen victim to the ongoing opiate crisis. Federal and state governments have ignored the widespread issue until recently when the Obama administration released a memorandum that allowed state governments to make Naloxone (Narcan) available over the counter. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan, is a drug that reverses the effects of opioids and especially overdoses. Created in 1961 by Sanyo and approved by the FDA in 1971, Naloxone has been used by trained doctors to save the lives of thousands of individuals that have overdosed.

The Washington Post reported in October of 2015 that the Obama administration issued a referendum instructing federal agencies to train doctors on how to properly prescribe opioids and ultimately identify barriers to medication assisted treatment for the employees enrolled in their health-care plans. They also announced that it would double the number of medical providers who can prescribe Naloxone.  For example, companies such as CVS plan on expanding the number of states where pharmacies will provide Naloxone over the counter.  Therefore, the Obama administration’s efforts to combat the opioid and prescription drug epidemic has heavily influenced private companies and organizations that are on the front line of this issue.

In a U.S News article titled “Coming to a High School Near You: Drugs that Reverse Heroin Overdoses” by Kimberly Leonard, discusses how companies such as Adapt Pharma, with the help of Clinton Foundation’s Health Matters Initiative, plan to supply free Naloxone to high schools around the nation. While it is rare for drug related overdoses to occur at schools, drug prevention programs in many states support the idea.  However, some states such as Maine are not following the initiative, where Republican Gov. Paul LePage has vetoed measures twice that would make naloxone more available, stating “it would give drug abusers a false sense of security.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, there were 22,767 prescription drug overdose deaths in 2013, causing severe consequences to our nation as a whole. While it has only recently been addressed by the federal and state governments, the citizens of America need to be much more aware of the current situation. Recently, the opiate epidemic has hit the youth community hard, especially as more and more teens find themselves using prescription drugs. Many youths are being prescribed opiates as a result of medical injuries and find themselves addicted to the drug after recovery is complete. A recent HBO documentary titled “Cape Cod Heroin” highlights the ongoing problem with youths and prescription medications.  Therefore, while the government continues to work on a solution to the opiate epidemic, communities need to teach citizens how to address personal drug addiction to put an end to this vicious cycle.