This September marks the 25th anniversary of National Recovery Month, and the time is right for the country to refocus its efforts toward drug addiction services. There has been much progress in the recent past, especially on the state and local levels. Yet, much work remains to be done, as well. States’ prescription drug monitoring databases have helped stop painkiller abuse in its tracks…yet, opiate addiction is still the fastest growing drug problem in the country.
More and more law enforcement officials are carrying naloxone to treat overdose victims… but that doesn’t address drug addiction, the reason why overdoses happen in the first place. And, even though 2.5 million people get substance abuse treatment, that’s only a fraction of the people that needed: over 22 million people across the country.
Congress Acts to Expand Drug Addiction Services
The other day, Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rob Portman announced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2014. Both senators represent states that have been hit especially hard by addiction. Portman represents Ohio, where the drug mortality rate averages fivepeople each day. Whitehouse represents Rhode Island, which has already seen 100 people die from overdoses in 2014 alone.
The bill is comprehensive and it is bipartisan — which goes to show how life and death issues such as substance abuse treatment are above politics. If it passes, the Act could expand drug addiction services both geographically and financially: giving local communities and states access to addiction treatment and giving $80 million for more addiction treatment efforts.
Education & Prevention
One of the most important drug addiction services that the Act deals with is preventing drug addiction from ever taking hold. Substance abuse most commonly begins at adolescence, so the Act expands educational programs aimed at both teens and parents of addicts. These programs will highlight the dangers of addiction and let people know that drug center treatment is available.
Law Enforcement & Diversion
Drug addiction cannot exist without dealers who sell drugs and — with regards to opiate painkillers — divert them from legal medical use. Although prescription monitoring databases (PDMDs) have done much to track diverted substances, the Addiction and Recovery Act will address some loopholes. For example, sharing database information is key for states like Rhode Island, where many addicts cross state lines to fill prescriptions. The Act will also increase police and first responders’ access to naloxone (Narcan), an injection that reverses opiate overdose symptoms. Every addict that is spared his or her death will be one more addict able to receive drug center treatment.
Drug Rehabs & Drug Addiction Services
Finally, the Act works to make drug addiction services more effective and more available. It will establish programs to evaluate drug rehab programs’ effectiveness, then expand upon the most effective ones. It also looks at addiction treatment in the penal system, where drug addiction services are often neglected. The ultimate vision behind this bill is to give more treatment and better treatment. With so many people behind this bill, the future of recovery is beginning to look bright. This is how National Recovery Month ought to be celebrated — helping one addict at a time, one day at a time.