President Obama’s Plan To Fight Opioid Addiction Is A Breath Of Fresh Air

President Obama discussed his plans yesterday to spend $1.1 billion dollars to fight opioid addiction–including both addictions to painkillers such as oxycontin, as well as addiction to heroin. The announcement comes on the heels of a dangerous trend of heroin overdoses in several states across the union.

The plan would involve spending more money on treatment, and making that treatment available to more people across the United State–including those in rural areas who often do not have access to help, and those who do not have insurance coverage due to living in states that have refused to accept the Medicare expansion.

Here is how the bulk of the funding will be spent:

- $920 million to support cooperative agreements with states to expand access to medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders. States will receive funds based on the severity of the epidemic and on the strength of their strategy to respond to it. States can use these funds to expand treatment capacity and make services more affordable.
– $50 million in National Health Service Corps funding to expand access to substance use treatment providers. This funding will help support approximately 700 health providers who can administer substance use disorder treatment services, including medication-assisted treatment, in areas across the country most in need of these specialists.
– $30 million to evaluate the effectiveness of treatment programs employing medication-assisted treatment under real-world conditions and help identify opportunities to improve treatment for patients with opioid use disorders.

In addition, the plan will include $500 million in funding “to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities.”

This is a really, really huge deal–and I am most excited about the part about improving access to Narcan/naloxone. Not only should every EMT have this drug on them at all times, but it should also be available to people who have family members or loved ones with opioid addictions.

Although you might not think anyone would be opposed to a drug that can reverse an overdose and save a life, you would be wrong. Republican Maine Governor Paul LePage has come out against the use of Narcan by emergency personnel for fear it would give drug users a “feeling of invincibility.” Because he is an ass.

The program will also give doctors more ability to distribute drugs like Buprenorphine and methadone that help people kick a drug addiction in a safe way.

I have to say, in all honesty, without any sarcasm–THANKS, OBAMA. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I’ve seen heroin take people I love away from me, and as much as that has hurt, I’ve also seen people come out of it and be awesome–and I desperately want that opportunity for as many people as possible. 

It took me at least six years to finally get it into my head that I couldn’t “love” someone out of a drug addiction, and it’s taken the United States Government nearly 30 to realize that what they were doing didn’t work either.

The War on Drugs was an abject failure. Everyone knows it by now–and heck, even a Nixon aide has come out to say that it’s entire purpose was to be able to go after black people and hippies. It is time we all grew up and started treating drug addiction like a disease rather than a crime. Not because it sounds “nicer,” but because it’s what actually works. Ask literally any drug counselor.

In the long run, these kinds of programs will also cost far less money overall–certainly less money than the War on Drugs did. Because that shit cost us over a trillion dollars and was not at all effective. Shit, it costs an average of $15 billion a year to merely house the over 500,000 people we’ve thrown in prison for drug crimes. The reason we spend that money is basically just to pander to people who desperately want to believe that the threat of jail time (or the threat of literally anything) is enough to keep people from doing drugs in the first place, which–let’s be real, it is not.

I have very high hopes for this program, and hope that it’s a signal that we are starting on the road to effectively helping people with opioid addictions.