President Barack Obama recently announced his intention to take aim at opioid addiction, using the latest weapon in the arsenal. The new drug, buprenorphine, helps relieve opioid withdrawal, and the president wants to make this new addiction treatment more accessible to addicts. His plan is to increase the number of patients each doctor can prescribe the treatment to, from 100 patients to 275 patients each, according to the White House website. Obama stressed that previous limitations were outdated.
Barack Obama knows that addicts suffer immeasurably because of their addictions. Obama plans to facilitate mass rehabilitation to reclaim a higher quality of life for addicts and prevent overdose deaths.
Kurt Cobain died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1994, long before the development of the new addiction-fighting drug buprenorphine. Cobain not only had heroin in his system at the time of death, he had recently been in a drug rehab program. The program apparently failed to facilitate his recovery from substance abuse. Sadly, in the past, heroin addiction treatments failed far more frequently than they succeeded. Can the new treatment change that?
President Barack Obama will not stop with one solution, though. His administration has a wide approach to the problem. The President’s White House website explains the need for expanded access to treatment, stronger monitoring of prescriptions for addictive prescription drugs, safe disposal methods for unwanted drugs, and more research on opioid abuse, misuse, and overdose.
Could Kurt Cobain have been saved had buprenorphine been readily available 22 years ago? While we may never know that specific answer, Kurt’s case is familiar and calls attention to a national tragedy that has claimed many more victims since his death. It is too late to save Kurt, but there are hundreds of thousands of new heroin and opioid addicts, and tens of thousands of them die each year from an overdose.
President Barack Obama is responding to an epidemic of opioid abuse, that includes both pharmaceutical opioid pain relievers and heroin. In 2014 alone, 28,000 Americans died of opiate and opioid overdose, marking a steady increase in opioid-related deaths, according to Fortune.
Every 11 minutes, someone in the United States dies of a drug overdose. That adds up to 129 people per day, and over 47,000 per year, according to the Hill. Well over half of those deaths are opioid-related, but other drugs contribute significantly, as well.
President Barack Obama is proposing a treatment incorporating buprenorphine, an opioid that does not deliver any euphoria, but still relieves pain — and more importantly, it relieves cravings for heroin and opioid pharmaceuticals. This allows for a slow weaning process and a productive life during withdrawal.
Is Barack Obama recognizing the need for medical treatment, not prosecution? If so, that would mark a significant change in strategy away from the so-called “War on Drugs” that focused on punishment rather than treatment. The Chicago Tribune has called for just such measures.
“It’s time to rethink the War on Drugs and consider addiction more in terms of a public health crisis than a criminal justice issue. It costs much less to provide supportive behavioral counseling and treatment to addicts than it does to lock them away in prisons for drug-related crimes. Several organizations point this out, including The Sentencing Project, which notes that the number of people in federal and state prisons for drug offenses has skyrocketed to 488,400 in 2014 from 40,900 in 1980.”
President Barack Obama has a chance to turn the war on drugs into a public health campaign instead of a criminal matter. Such a change could help a lot of people recover.
Kurt Cobain, Prince, and Michael Jackson all died as a result of substance abuse, but are celebrities really at a higher risk for overdose and other deaths connected with drug abuse? Chris Cornell of Soundgarden says no. Cornell speaks out against the glorification of celebrity overdoses, according to Alternative Nation.
“What ends up happening with musicians and actors is, they’re famous, so when somebody has an issue, it’s something that gets talked about. People die of drug overdoses every day that nobody talks about. It’s a shame that famous people get all the focus because it then gets glorified a little bit, like, ‘This person was too sensitive for the world,’ and, ‘A light twice as bright lives half as long,’ and all that… It’s not true.”
Barack Obama is finally giving those ordinary addicts the spotlight, with research, treatment, and access to effective medication. Addicted celebrities will also benefit from the research and understanding of their problems.
So if Kurt Cobain’s addiction was not caused by fame and his artistic nature, what was the reason for his addiction? While there is probably no one, singular answer, Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, believes that both their addictions stem from being prescribed Ritalin as children.
Kurt Cobain took Ritalin from the time he was 7-years-old. Could this have led to Cobain’s addiction? Courtney Love related in an article for Drug-Free World how Ritalin led her to harder drugs.
“When you’re a kid and you get this drug that makes you feel that [euphoric] feeling, where else are you going to turn when you’re an adult?”
Kurt Cobain’s widow, Courtney, is not alone in her theories about Ritalin. According to Drug-Free World’s article, Studies have linked Ritalin with the later use of cocaine, heroin, and other drugs. It seems that marijuana was not the gateway drug, after all. Instead, it was a drug that doctors prescribed and parents willingly gave their children to prevent hyperactivity.
President Barack Obama is going to fund more studies on the causes and underlying reasons for drug abuse. As for what is causing this rise in drug-related deaths now, experts point to Fentanyl. Fentanyl is a powerful painkiller often cut with heroin to make the heroin both cheaper and stronger. Sometimes mixtures of Fentanyl and heroin are sold as other controlled substances, like the case in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, reported by WGNS Radio. In that case, the mixture was being sold on the street as Percocet, a comparatively milder painkiller. Overdoses have skyrocketed over a 72-hour period since these misidentified drugs appeared. Fentanyl is a dangerous heroin additive that skews the user’s dosage calculation, leading to an overdose.
President Obama now knows that pharmaceutical medications need to be controlled more powerfully to prevent these deaths. He also has acknowledged that treatment, not punishment, is the key to solving drug problems.
President Barack Obama may be too late to save Kurt Cobain, but these new measures will save the lives of millions in the future.
[Image by CTR Photos/Shutterstock]