Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


February 20, 2013

Prescription drug abuse — Federal legislation merits full support

Two West Virginia Democrats have reintroduced bills in Congress aimed at fighting prescription drug abuse. The measures are a necessary step in helping to curb the rampant abuse of prescription narcotics in the Mountain State and across the nation.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., jointly announced legislation last week that would establish new training requirements before health care professionals can be licensed to prescribe prescription drugs. The proposed law also would promote physician and patient education, create a uniform reporting system for painkiller-related deaths, and increase funding for state drug monitoring programs. U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is co-sponsoring Rockefeller’s Senate measure.

Rahall and Rockefeller are also planning to convene two roundtable discussions Thursday in Charleston to address the public health and safety challenges of prescription drug abuse and drug trafficking in the Mountain State. They will be joined at Thursday’s event by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske, as well as U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, who represents the southern district of West Virginia.

Rockefeller is warning that prescription drug abuse or misuse is now responsible for nine out of 10 drug-related deaths in the state — a highly alarming statistic.

 Rahall also recently announced that the Office of National Drug Control Policy would provide training for West Virginia law enforcement professionals and prosecuting attorneys on prescription drug diversion, interdiction and investigative strategies, and Rockefeller has co-sponsored legislation to support construction of new behavioral clinics for substance abuse and mental health treatment in West Virginia.

All of the aforementioned measures — and more — are needed to address the scourge of prescription drug abuse.

The statistics alone are reason enough for alarm. In West Virginia, an estimated 40,000 people are addicted to some form of controlled substances and aren’t receiving treatment. And one fifth of all  pregnant women in the Mountain State have a drug issue that will impact their newborn child. And drug overdose death rates in the nation have more than tripled since 1990.

It will take a continued and coordinated effort between law enforcement, lawmakers on the state and federal level, and community advocates to stem this deadly tide of prescription drug abuse. When it comes to fighting this deadly epidemic, partisanship needs to be thrown out the window.

The measures introduced by Rahall, Manchin and Rockefeller demand immediate attention and approval in both the House and Senate.

And Congress must continue working on legislation that can help the states, the communities and law enforcement officials who are on the front line of the drug war.

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