A month after a major outbreak of the highly addictive opioid fentanyl, the country’s drug czar has announced plans to expand access to prescription painkillers and increase testing and treatment.
The announcement came in a speech Monday at the Brookings Institution, a nonpartisan Washington think tank.
“It’s no secret that prescription painkiller addiction is the most dangerous problem we face in our country today,” said David Kamin, the commissioner of the Drug Enforcement Administration, in his remarks to a panel.
“There is a lot of evidence to show that when it comes to opioid use, prescription drug abuse, and the abuse of illicit opioids, the consequences are very, very real.”
He said the department is working to provide treatment and prevention services to people with addiction and has set up a website for information and referral to those in need.
But, the speech also made a call to action for other public health officials.
“We’re not going to take any action until we’ve seen evidence of a reduction in the use of prescription opioids,” Kamin said.
“The opioid crisis is a national public health crisis, and it is our responsibility to get it under control, but we’re not there yet.”
The announcement comes after more than 100 deaths and more than $200 billion in lost productivity due to opioid addiction and overdose.
“Fentanyl is a chemical that kills,” Kabin said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the opioid epidemic costs the country $70 billion a year.
In April, Kamin was asked about opioid overdose deaths.
He said, “We have to do something to try to prevent people from taking opioids in the first place.”
The opioid epidemic is not only a public health issue but also a moral issue, Kabin added.
“When people think of addiction, they think of drugs that kill.
But when they think about the consequences of that addiction, it’s not a drug that kills.”
The president has been pushing for drug reform for years, but this is the first time he has called for a comprehensive public health approach to the opioid problem.
“This is the president that we’ve all known for the last 30 years that said he was going to get tough on drugs,” Kain said.
He added that “it’s a little bit of a shock” that the president has called on public health professionals to “make sure we are going after opioid addiction.”
Kamin also told the Brookings panel that the federal government is taking on the task of addressing the opioid issue.
“That includes all of the different types of health care, the public health, and health care delivery systems,” Kammin said.
That includes the Veterans Administration, where he said the VA has been implementing a new opioid crisis prevention program.
Kamin has also been advocating for increased testing for opioids.
The president told the Washington Post last week that he plans to announce the details of his opioid plan later this year.