Heroin & Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic Brings President Obama to Georgia

We’ve been raising the alarm for the past two years about the dangers of prescription (Rx) drugs misuse and abuse. In fact, the problem has become so widespread that it has now become impossible to separate the Rx opioid epidemic from the rise in heroin use.

Last week this pressing issue brought key advocates, treatment providers, prevention specialists, policy makers, and law enforcement from all over the country to Atlanta to discuss this growing epidemic and create multi-faceted solutions. The National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit was held in downtown Atlanta where a record number of 2,000 people registered to attend.

The most notable person to attend the conference was President Barack Obama. This is the first time a President has participated in the summit. He spoke on a panel that included two people in recovery from prescription drugs and heroin abuse, and an ER Doctor from Baltimore. The discussion was moderated by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

President Obama stressed the importance of viewing addiction as a chronic disease and not a choice. He also said the government should play a role in providing funding that allows more people to access treatment. He has proposed $1.1 billion dollars in new funding in his fiscal year 2017 budget, most of which would go directly to States – to ensure that every American who wants treatment can get the help they need. The budget has yet to be approved by Congress.

This was also the first year the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit expanded its focus to include heroin. Research indicates that heroin and other opioids are ravaging communities across America.

Here are a few startling statistics:

  • 4 out of 5 heroin users began first with recreational use of Rx pain relievers
  • From 2004 to 2014, the number of heroin deaths increased from less than 2,000 to more than 10,000.
  • Deaths from heroin increased 248% between 2010 and 2014.
  • More than 6 out of 10 drug overdose deaths in 2014 involved opioids, including opioid pain relievers and heroin- that is 81 deaths a day

But there is hope! If you are a parent, there are some things you can do to stop this epidemic.

  1. Parents have Power – Kids who learn about the risks of drugs at home are significantly less likely to use alcohol and other drugs than kids who don’t – 42 percent less likely when it comes to prescription drug abuse.
    1. When kids are asked why they don’t use the answer is that they don’t want to disappoint their parents.
    2. However, only 14% of teens say their parents have talked with them about prescription drug abuse.
  2. Talk Early, Talk Often – Teens can be frustrating – in many ways – but what you probably feel most for your teen is love and concern. Let them know that. Here are some tips to start the conversation: offer advice and guidance; show concern rather than anger; ask open-ended questions; set limits you can live with; work to understand your teens point of view.
  3. Monitor Prescription Drugs in Your Home – Keep track of how many pills are in each bottle and if you seem to be refilling medications more quickly than makes sense – there may be a problem.

If you’d like more information on how to prevent substance abuse with your child or to seek treatment options, visit the website of our national affiliate – the Partnership for Drug Free Kids – at www.drugfree.org. Or if a person you care about is using opioids or any other drugs, you can call the Parent Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373)

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