On March 29, 2016, President Barack Obama spoke at a National Prescription Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in Atlanta, Georgia. At the summit, Obama committed to tackling the opioid epidemic plaguing our nation by focusing on prevention and treatment, rather than on dated “war on drugs” policies. Obama emphasized the importance of altering the lens in which we view drug addiction. Instead of looking at substance abuse as a criminal problem, President Obama suggested that we view addiction as a health problem.
Changing the Discourse on Addiction
Obama’s statements build on this month’s congressional movements to change the political discourse regarding addiction and to allocate government funds to fight the opioid overdose epidemic in the United States. Historically, addiction has been viewed as a criminal problem, not as a public health concern. The Obama administration is working to overturn that perspective on addiction and shift it towards a health concern. Obama stated, “If we treat addiction like a crime, we aren’t doing anything scientific and it’s ineffective.”
In many societies, substance abuse became heavily criminalized due to the belief that addicts and alcoholics were immoral, weak in character, selfish, and lacked self-control. In essence, addiction was seen as a moral issue. Over the years, advocates have worked tirelessly to convince the public that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing. They attempted to change the approach to treating addiction from a punitive approach to a more rehabilitative one.
Obama said that historically, addiction has not been viewed as a public health concern, primarily because it was believed to affect “the poor and minorities.” Addiction was seen as a character flaw, rather than as a disease affecting people of all ages, races, religions, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic statuses.
Taking Steps to Tackle the Opioid Epidemic
The Obama administration has taken steps to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. According to Michael Botticelli, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “research clearly shows that [the medication-assisted treatment] approach, when combined with behavioral therapies, is more effective at sustaining recovery and preventing overdose.” The Obama administration plans to expand access to treatment by issuing $94 million to 271 community health centers across the country to increase substance abuse treatment, with a focus on expanding medication-assisted treatment in underserved communities.
In addition, President Obama signed a memorandum calling for the creation of an interagency task force to expand access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) will soon release a new $11 million funding opportunity to states to purchase and distribute naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain. It was the CDC’s first-ever recommendations for primary care physicians on prescribing opioids. In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced safety-labeling changes for all immediate-release opioid pain medications, which included requiring a new warning about the serious risks of opioid abuse, opioid addiction, and opioid overdose deaths. As evidenced above, the White House and several government agencies are working hard to combat the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic affecting the United States. Addiction is a chronic, progressive and fatal disease if left untreated, but recovery from opioid addiction is possible. With treatment and support, you or your loved one can recover from opioid use disorder.
Recovery is Possible
Are you or a loved one struggling with drug addiction? If so, help is available. Individuals struggling with substance abuse can experience hope and healing at The Treatment Center. We offer a variety of treatment programs, services, and therapies to best suit the needs of each individual patient. To find out more about our facility, contact us today at 877.392.3342, or chat with an admissions counselor online. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.