President Obama traveled to West Virginia this week to announce steps to curb the rise in deaths from prescription drug overdoses.
He is mandating more training of federal doctors and requiring federal health insurance plans to treat addiction, reported The New York Times.
In the Times article, a White House official stated that they had “identified prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse as critical problems.”
Previously, the Obama administration has worked to address excessive prescribing practices, being mindful that patients experiencing pain, like those suffering from cancer, can get the medicine they need.
Currently, the federal government does not regulate the practice of medicine, and only West Virginia and nine other states require specialized training for doctors who prescribe opioids.
Deaths from prescription drug abuse total to more than 20,000 people in the United States each year, making it the country’s leading cause of death by injury. Recently, this epidemic has been fueled by the lower cost and easy access to heroin, with nearly 50 percent of heroin users also addicted to painkillers.
Misunderstanding about prescription drug abuse have also made things worse, said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in the Times, citing that patients’ may have a false assumption that if they get medicine for their addiction, like the drug methadone, that their condition will worsen. “Medically assisted treatment is seriously underutilized,” he says in the Times article.