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Joyce B.
Democrat OH 3

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  • Faces of Addiction

    by Representative Joyce Beatty

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    BEATTY. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues Congresswoman Ann Kuster and Congressman Frank Guinta for leading this important Special Order Hour on opioid and heroin abuse and dependence.

    Today's theme, ``Faces of Addiction,'' gives us a unique opportunity to the powerful addicting qualities of heroin and opioids, which have serious implications for every family impacted by its abuse.

    Some of you may have seen the 60 Minutes segment, ``Heroin in the Heartland,'' which filmed in parts of my district.

    Let me share the story of Robbie, whose struggle stands out to me.

    Robbie was prescribed opioids--Oxycodone and Oxycontin, among others--for a chronic pain condition.

    Although he said he never intended to abuse these medications, Robbie became an addict, taking painkillers for 25 years as his doctors kept prescribing higher and higher doses to manage his pain.

    Robbie eventually stopped caring about anything except opioids and finding his next dose of medication.

    His marriage fell apart.

    He became estranged from friends.

    He gained 90 pounds and developed diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis.

    He lost his will to live and contemplated suicide.

    Ultimately, it was a pharmacist who put a stop to Robbie's opioid use by refusing to fill his prescription.

    This abrupt end to the drugs led Robbie to connect to a new doctor, an addiction specialist.

    Robbie is not alone in his struggle with opioid dependence and abuse.

    According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, over 100 Americans died from drug overdose deaths each day in 2013.

    46 Americans die each day from prescription opioid overdoses, which is two deaths per hour or 17,000 deaths annually.

    In Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health, from 2000 to 2012, Ohio's death rate due to unintentional drug poisonings increased 366 percent, and this increase in deaths has been driven largely by prescription drug overdoses.

    On average, approximately five people die each day in Ohio due to drug overdose.

    As these statistics illustrate, much work remains to be done toward resolving the problems of opioid abuse nationally as well as in my home state.

    We need an honest effort to integrate prevention, treatment, and enforcement.

    Ohio is adding a weapon to its arsenal in fighting drug abuse by providing doctors and pharmacists with a one-click link to the state opiate tracking system.

    Ohio will become the first state to integrate its database, the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), with electronic medical records already maintained by doctors and pharmacists.

    This database linkup is one of the latest tools utilized by state officials to combat the epidemic of overdose deaths.

    The opioid epidemic has been particularly devastating to our fight to end infant mortality in central Ohio.

    When a pregnant mother abuses drugs, her unborn baby isn't just an innocent bystander. The drugs can affect that child to the degree that the baby will likely suffer withdraw after birth.

    As of 2013, about 12 in every 1,000 babies born in Franklin County faced that uphill battle.

    Those numbers grow year after year and experts say heroin is fueling the increase.

    That is why at the federal level, I co-sponsored and voted in favor of the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, which was signed into law November 25, 2015.

    This new law will help prevent and treat babies exposed to opioids in utero.

    It will also support efforts to collect and disseminate strategies and best practices to prevent and treat maternal opioid use and abuse.

    Finding solutions to this epidemic will require all of us to work together at the Federal, State, and local levels.

    Drug abuse certainly isn't a partisan issue and many Members of Congress are actively engaged on the matter.

    I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to address this epidemic.

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