Bipartisan Bill to Fight Overdoses Filed in Congress

A bipartisan group of legislators led by Reps. Donna Edwards (D-MD) and Mary Bono Mack (R-CA) last Thursday introduced a bill designed to reduce the number of overdose deaths related to the use of opioid pain medications. Among other measures, the bill seeks to ramp us the use of naloxone, an opioid antagonist that quickly reverses overdoses among heroin and opioid pain reliever users.

naloxone package (wikimedia.org)
The bill, known as the Stop Overdoses Stat Act, did not have a bill number and was not yet available online as of last Thursday afternoon. [Update: It is now online as H.R. 6311.] It would create federal support for overdose prevention, education, and training programs run by cities, states, tribal governments, and community groups.

It is aimed primarily at the rapid increase in fatal prescription opioid overdose deaths that have accompanied the massive increase in opioid pain pill prescriptions over the past decade. Since the late 1990s, roughly the time Oxycontin appeared on the scene, the number of fatal overdose deaths have jumped more than 140%, claiming more than 28,500 lives in 2009 (the latest year data is available). While overdoses from illegal drugs persist as a major public health problem, fatal overdoses from prescribed opioid pain relievers such as oxycodone account for more than 40% of all overdose deaths.

Fatal drug overdoses now exceed the number of deaths from firearms and are second only to car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death. Currently, somebody dies of a drug overdose every 14 minutes in the US.

Despite growing recognition among federal health authorities and lawmakers that overdose prevention programs employ techniques and resources that are highly effective at saving lives at low-cost to taxpayers, few federal dollars are dedicated to supporting these critical programs. A February report from the Centers for Disease Control credits overdose prevention programs with saving more than 10,000 lives since 1996.

"Local health officials and frontline workers engaged in overdose prevention are saving lives every day using straightforward, low-cost interventions. With federal support, we could be saving many more lives and spare countless families from enduring the heart wrenching, yet completely preventable, loss of a loved one," said Grant Smith, federal policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Drug Policy Alliance applauds Congresswoman Edwards and Congresswoman Bono Mack for introducing this live-saving legislation and showing leadership on this issue in Congress."

"The SOS Act will fight a growing health crisis that is going largely unnoticed in our country," said Edwards. "Approximately 30,000 Americans die each year from drug overdoses, yet the national response to combat this ongoing crisis remains woefully inadequate. It is time that the federal government took on an active role in promoting proven treatments recommended by medical associations. I want to thank Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack for joining me in introducing the SOS Act, and I look forward to working with all my colleagues to pass this bill into law."

Local overdose prevention programs have been successfully implemented in more than 180 locations nationwide, including pioneering statewide programs in Massachusetts, New Mexico, and New York, and in major cities including Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles, Pittsburg, and San Francisco. Passage of the SOS Act would make federal funds available to support these and similar programs and add new ones.

"As Americans, we rally around efforts to fight breast cancer, childhood diseases and other serious health threats. But for far too long, there have only been hushed whispers about prescription drug abuse -- now the fastest growing drug problem in America. So as the death toll from prescription drug overdoses continues to rise sharply, it's time to move this story from the obituary page to the front page where it belongs," said Bono Mack. "It's time to realize that we can't simply wish this horrific problem away. Not with more than 20,000 people a year dying from it. Not when the number of newborn babies who must be withdrawn from opiate dependence at birth has tripled in the past decade. Not when nearly one out of 4 high school seniors has used prescription painkillers. This is nothing less than a national tragedy. If 20,000 people died each year from food poisoning, Americans would demand immediate action."

The bill currently has two dozen cosponsors.

Washington, DC
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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ahh!! no naloxone!!!!!!!!

say it aint so please stop wasting our time !!. govt people. we have narcan. by God!! naloxone - the DoC for those interested in making cash off opiate users but are too late to the dance to get effective dough from bupe or methadone. besides, any true reformer and generally properly educated person on the matters of prohibition knows the real reason for OD's is a. prohibition it'self and b. stupidity on the part of the user. thats it baby. no more to it.

stupid people deserve to live too

naloxone is important, man. even after legalization, there will be many opiate overdoses. preventing death is the priority.

A word about Prevention

Dependence on opioids is itself a PREVENTABLE disease, and as CJ says (above) prohibition itself -- of cannabis -- is the cause of opioid overdose. 

Lest anyone misunderstand cannabis as an alternative "drug", quite the opposite, cannabis is a nutri-supplement which your metabolism can use to stoke up its power to burn away "drug" or "drag" on perception and on the systematic reparative physique-expressiveness sometimes known as EXERCISE.  Modern "depressed" individuals may feel that they lack the gusto to master pain or discomfort through exercise, so they are easily tempted to seek a passive remedy-- I take something, it does something to me to fix the problem.  Following that script and waiting for cannabis to do something for them, like some drug, doesn't always work to satisfaction,so they "reach for" a treatment, i.e. "pain-killer" etc.and if they overdose, well historically voices have been heard blaming cannabis for helping cause it-- one thinks of Jimi Hendrix.

Paid advertising and other media promote DEPRESSION in order to help somebody sell remedies for it; that goes for pills to kill pain and $igarettes to kill boredom, anxiety, withdrawal symptoms etc., and those who profit from the system can be found lobbying legislators to keep cannabis (the PREVENTION) illegal.

Another cannabis cures everything proponent

I was a hippy in the 60's and had a big hate for drug addicts because cannabis isn't a real drug rite?It's a supplement.It cures everything and those poor deluded junkies would never do that crap if they just had access to pot.I am almost as tired of hearing this as I am of the prohibitionist pap that spews out of that sector.There are a lot of reasons for drug addiction and I even know people that used cannabis to withdraw from opioids.I also know people so messed up on cannabis that they sit home all day and play video games and never wash.I have a script for medical cannabis for severe back pain.It has no effect on me.I need opiates and can't access them even though two sets of specialists have recommended strong opiate medication.Nothing is the answer to everything in spite of what the cannabis moralists will tell you.Some things work for some and some for others.It's prohibition of human behavior that's the problem.People who won't listen to any but their own voices.Marijuana helps many people and should be available to anyone that wants it.Opiates need a doctors prescription and that should be enough.The drug war mentality is not just the fault of the people that want to prohibit cannabis.All drugs have a purpose and it should be up to the individual what he or she uses to cure what ails them.Or just uses to make the day go by without cutting their own throat.Whatever floats your boat.Drug use is not the problem.Drug abuse can be but would be much easier to deal with without piling on legal problems on top.Treatment should be between a doctor and his patient.

Naloxone != Naltrexone

Naloxone is a very short-acting drug used for opioid overdoses. Naltrexone is the one used for maintenance treatment for addicts (Revia); it works for some people, though I imagine most would need methadone or bupe instead. They're similar but NOT the same.. Anyway, I find this heartening. IMO naloxone should be available to anyone with basic training or knowledge to use it. Ideally all opioid users and those close to them should know about it and have it available to them. Harm reduction is still so controversial to most politicians that I'm surprised this has so much support. Also, I disagree that prohibition is responsible for *most* opioid overdoses. If most overdoses involved street drugs I would agree, but right now it's mostly legit pills involved in overdoses (especially in combination with eg. benzodiazepines and alcohol), where the dose is known and there aren't harmful undisclosed cuts. Prohibition means its harder to get effective treatment, as opposed to dogmatic or punitive "treatment", but that's not as direct a cause of overdoses.

Naloxone != Naltrexone

Naloxone is a very short-acting drug used for opioid overdoses. Naltrexone is the one used for maintenance treatment for addicts (Revia); it works for some people, though I imagine most would need methadone or bupe instead. They're similar but NOT the same.. Anyway, I find this heartening. IMO naloxone should be available to anyone with basic training or knowledge to use it. Ideally all opioid users and those close to them should know about it and have it available to them. Harm reduction is still so controversial to most politicians that I'm surprised this has so much support. Also, I disagree that prohibition is responsible for *most* opioid overdoses. If most overdoses involved street drugs I would agree, but right now it's mostly legit pills involved in overdoses (especially in combination with eg. benzodiazepines and alcohol), where the dose is known and there aren't harmful undisclosed cuts. Prohibition means its harder to get effective treatment, as opposed to dogmatic or punitive "treatment", but that's not as direct a cause of overdoses.

Naloxone != Naltrexone

Naloxone is a very short-acting drug used for opioid overdoses. Naltrexone is the one used for maintenance treatment for addicts (Revia); it works for some people, though I imagine most would need methadone or bupe instead. They're similar but NOT the same..

Anyway, I find this heartening. IMO naloxone should be available to anyone with basic training or knowledge to use it. Ideally all opioid users and those close to them should know about it and have it available to them. Harm reduction is still so controversial to most politicians that I'm surprised this has so much support.

Also, I disagree that prohibition is responsible for *most* opioid overdoses. If most overdoses involved street drugs I would agree, but right now it's mostly legit pills involved in overdoses (especially in combination with eg. benzodiazepines and alcohol), where the dose is known and there aren't harmful undisclosed cuts. Prohibition means its harder to get effective treatment, as opposed to dogmatic or punitive "treatment", but that's not as direct a cause of overdoses.

Overdose prevention

The bill is fatally flawed & Edwards and Bono know it.  Currently being 16 trillion in debt, the Congress is NOT going to allocate money for a new program, regardless of how wonderful it is.

A much better bill would be to have a policy of 'arrest-free 911 calls' when someone is dying on ground that is patrolled by the feds.  Wouldn't cost anything & would send the signal that this is good policy.

Deaths by prescription: over 28,000.

Several years ago, I had surgery on my right shoulder.  Pain medication was prescribed..."take one capsule every 4 hours." I took one capsule.  I was down for over 20 hours.  When I came to, I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  The next time I felt discomfort, I smoked a  small amount of marijuana ...pain gone, no after effects. I threw the pills out. Then I wrote: Shoulda Robbed a Bank My contribution to helping point out just how ludicrous our pot laws truly are. I hope you check it out.


 

Potential harmful effects of marijuana


The closest I have ever seen marijuana come to harming anyone was during an air drop.  We brought in 1100 pounds from Jamaica and dropped it in a peanut field in middle Georgia.  The bales were dropped from a small plane at 125 feet altitude.  One of the bales, about 80 pounds, missed my compadre by only a few feet... but it surely messed up his truck.    You can read about it in:  Shoulda Robbed a Bank  

A review of 'Shoulda Robbed a Bank'

All card-carrying members of the DEA need to read: Shoulda Robbed a Bank
Here is one of its reviews:

5.0 out of 5 stars... If David Sedaris had written 'Catcher in the Rye'..this would be it, June 30, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase
This review is from: Shoulda Robbed a Bank (Kindle Edition)  I have never smoked pot in my life...nor do I ever care to.
I read about this book in numerous Huffington Post comments. Thought I would read it because I know nothing about marijuana or the people involved with it. I am ecstatic that I did. Funny, Funny, Funny!!!
The chapters are like short stories. Stories about unloading boats with helicopters, close encounters with law enforcement, traveling through the jungles of South America. The chapter about the author's first time smoking marijuana made me feel like I was with him...coughing.
All of the characters were just a group of loveable, nice guys and girls. Not what I had been raised to believe...hysterical maniacs high on pot bent on death and mayhem. They were nothing like that.
If you have ever read any of David Sedaris' books, and like them...you will love Shoulda Robbed a Bank.
And the crazy things happening reminded me of Holden Caufield in 'Catcher in the Rye' and the way he staggered through life.
The way the words are put together are like nothing I have ever heard. I am sure I will use many of the sayings found in this book just to dazzle my friends. A terrific read. I love this book.

 

naloxone

I was a junkie when the heroin in town was selling at $1.50 a point(wholesale)and 60% pure.I saw a lot of overdoses and never lost a single one.We just hit them with saline and up they came.Naloxone doesn't take any medical training.You don't even have to be good with a needle,though it helps.Just making people aware that they won't face charges or get in any trouble would be a big step forward.This is the biggest reason people die and the best reason that naloxone should be available to any addict.If you don't have access,try hitting them with a strong dose of saline.It worked every time for us and we used to have several OD's every week.It isn't always available and is no replacement for a sure thing like naloxone.It doesn't,however,bring you down like a rock and leave you wanting.Just a thought.

You could just use the

You could just use the second, third and fourth words in this headline and it would still be true. Mary J.

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