Rahall Stands Up Against Drug Abuses

Updated 8 years ago From a Rep. Nick Rahall Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) Tuesday joined members of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse at a briefing for Members of Congress hosted by Operation UNITE to provide an overview and findings from the National Rx Drug Abuse Summit last April on the abuse of prescription medications, and to advance short- and long-term solutions to attack the scourge now classified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as an epidemic.


           “Enlist, organize, share resources and talents are the marching orders we gave and got this afternoon in an encouraging briefing with members of Congress and Operation UNITE on where we stand since the first National Rx Abuse Summit,” said Rahall, a senior member of the Congressional Caucus.  “The Summit was a national wakeup call and I believe we have made some important inroads in getting more members of Congress involved in working on national legislation to confront the scourge of abuse. I have introduced legislation that would arm our law enforcement, physicians, and local communities in this fight – making it harder for pills to get into the wrong hands and be misused, and ensuring that all prescriptions are properly monitored.

Aside from the human toll, the abuse of prescription drugs – now considered the greatest drug threat facing our nation – carries a heavy economic cost of some $72.5 billion annually. Rahall’s effort with the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse is focused on developing solutions on the federal front to attack this scourge in the short and long term.


            Experts widely acknowledge that combating this epidemic will require a multi-pronged approach that engages all levels of government, leaders from communities small and large, law enforcement, and health care professionals specializing in treatment of pain and addiction, and the nation’s youth.

“From the evidence and testimonials submitted to me on the toll of destruction and devastation heaped upon West Virginia’s families and our economy by this epidemic, one unmistakable conclusion emerges. The United States Congress must act, and act swiftly, to help our state and communities in combating prescription drug abuse,” said Rahall in his remarks. “Our jails and prisons are filling up. Local businesses are hurting because of it.  Communities are being heavily taxed by it.  And, local leaders are looking for answers to it. I know that our fight against prescription drug abuse will require the work of an entire village.”

Rahall has been active and vocal in promoting legislation that he introduced, H.R. 1925, the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the House companion measure to the Senate bill authored by Senator Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), which would promote both physician and consumer education, as well as authorize federal funding to help states create and maintain prescription drug monitoring programs that all states can access.  In April, a House Judiciary Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill, at which Rahall testified.

This spring, Rahall participated in a bipartisan panel at the nation’s first national summit focusing solely on the issue of prescription drug abuse to help put Appalachia center stage in a national forum to direct attention back home. Last year, Rahall convened the state’s first summit to focus resources on the burgeoning problem of prescription drug abuse in West Virginia, bringing together federal, state, and local officials in Wyoming County.

 

Rahall’s remarks, as prepared for delivery at the briefing, are below:

 

Remarks by U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall, II

Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse Briefing

"Beating the Medicine Cabinet Epidemic"

 

First, I want to express my thanks to Karen Kelly and Operation UNITE, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and my colleague and friend, Congressman Rogers, for all the dedication and hard work to convene the nation’s first National Summit on Prescription Drug Abuse. I was honored to participate in this forum, which was a vital step in shining a national spotlight on the death toll from what was once described as “America’s Silent Epidemic.”

If one reads any newspaper in southern West Virginia, you will undoubtedly find downright scary stories of families, children and seniors devastated by prescription drug abuse, and the crime that it engenders in a tragic, destructive and vicious cycle. And, it is certainly vicious. 

Unlike cocaine or heroin, prescription drugs are not illicit drugs. Statistics show that both children and adults are blind to the harmful consequences of these drugs – even as they become addicted – paying upwards of $150 per pill when buying them on the black market, even in southern West Virginia.

Distressingly, West Virginia has our nation's highest rate of drug-related deaths.  In fact, between 2001 and 2008, more than nine out of ten of those deaths involved prescription drugs. Drug overdoses now kill more West Virginians each year than car accidents do. It's the leading cause of accidental deaths in the state.

But it’s not just in West Virginia we are seeing alarming usage and deaths of prescription drugs.

Drug overdose death rates in the United States have more than tripled since 1990 and have never been higher. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdoses, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs. From babies being born addicted to opiates to seniors overdosing, this is a nationwide problem with no boundaries and it needs national attention.

You will hear from Karen Kelly about the many experts who attended the summit, and the valuable information they shared through their presentations. The statistics were staggering and the stories tragic and frightening.  I am, however, encouraged to have met many of the summit attendees – over 700 people from all parts of the community – who are committed to this fight and have no plans to give up until we’ve turned the tide on prescription drug abuse.

At the Summit, I had the privilege to host a discussion called “Stories of Hope.” Some very special and brave folks, who have been through prescription drug addiction themselves or with family, shared the challenges and heartbreak of their struggles. They also shed some light of hope and triumph as they and others continue to work hard to escape this epidemic, and move forward with their lives.   Their stories were clear emphasis that our families, our communities, our nation’s future cannot afford to wait for action that is needed at a federal level.

In my District, I have had numerous meetings and discussions with law enforcement professionals, prosecutors, community organizations, teachers, physicians, and many other constituents.

From the evidence and testimonials submitted to me on the toll of destruction and devastation heaped upon West Virginia’s families and our economy by this epidemic, one unmistakable conclusion emerges. The United States Congress must act, and act swiftly, to help our state and communities in combating prescription drug abuse.

Our jails and prisons are filling up with people who fell into a tragic pattern of substance abuse – especially prescription drug abuse.

Local businesses are hurting because of it.  Communities are being heavily taxed by it.  And, local leaders are looking for answers to it.

 

I know that our fight against prescription drug abuse will require the work of an entire village.

We must tackle drug diversion, educate children and adults on prevention, work with the medical community on addiction and pain treatment, and extend treatment and rehabilitation resources to those affected by addiction.  We know this fight will take long-term persistence and the coordination of federal, state, and local resources and networks.

I, along with my distinguished colleagues, have put forth and supported legislation that aims to combat prescription drug abuse. We all know that something more needs to be done from a federal level, and that’s why I introduced H.R. 1925, the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. H.R. 1925 would implement multiple measures needed to combat drug abuse – education and training, monitoring, evaluation and enforcement – and provides a good guideline in coordinating federal, state, and local efforts to fight the prescription drug epidemic.

I know my colleagues have authored and support similar bills, like H.R. 2119, the Ryan Creedon Act, which also seeks to implement targeted physician education on prescription drug abuse and addiction, and Chairman Rogers’ bill, the ID MEDS Act. These bills address the critical issues that ought to be part of efforts in crafting legislation to assist our states and communities in combating prescription drug abuse.

If the health of our nation's young, old and all ages in between, suffered the ills, pain and death this epidemic has cost us at the hand of a new alien microbe or virus, the CDC and NIH would be stampeding the halls of Congress demanding immediate action. If our country sustained the number of casualties and fatalities this scourge has cost us from a foreign enemy abroad, the Congress would have declared war long ago.

I encourage you to join us in urging this Congress to move forward on legislation that encompasses the provisions I’ve mentioned.  We urged the attendees of the Summit to take action, contact their Members of Congress and Senators, join the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus and make their voices heard, and that is what we all must do here in Washington. And, as a father and grandfather, I ask that we act with dispatch and compassion, and with an acute understanding of the enormity of the challenge before us. 

I thank you for your time today, and with the aid of legions of willing and able community professionals and leaders throughout the country, I look forward to working with all of you and my colleagues in the effort to eradicate this epidemic.

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