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Marcy K.
Democrat OH 9

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  • Faces of Addiction

    by Representative Marcy Kaptur

    Posted on 2016-01-06

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    KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Kuster for her leadership in bringing us together this evening. Congressman Guinta has really done the Nation a huge service.

    I rise tonight to speak for the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, children and friends who have buried a loved one because of heroin. Nationwide, there has been a fourfold increase in death from opiates over the last decade, and every year nearly 17,000 people die from prescription opiate overdoses. Over 8,000 die from heroin overdoses, and more than 400,000 seek treatment in emergency rooms. In Ohio alone, heroin kills an average of 23 people every week, more than 1,100 persons per year.

    Heroin and opiate abuse is not a criminal justice issue alone. This Nation must recognize this addiction as the overwhelming, powerful, chemical dependance condition it is. Concurrently, too, it is often a mental health and medical crisis as well.

    They tell us the annual financial cost for our society now is over $33 billion a year, and that is based on 1996 figures. The gravest cost is in lives lost and grief felt by those loved ones whom the overdose victims leave behind.

    I think of the family of my own district staffer, Theresa Morris, who lost her beloved cousin, Angelique ``Angel'' Kidd, this past July to heroin. Angel grew up in a working class family, got married young, had two children, and went to work in food service. One night on her way home, she was in a terrible car accident and was given opioid pain medicine to help her with her discomfort.

    As she regained strength, she found it difficult to live with chronic pain and turned to other prescription medication and eventually to illegal substances in order to cope. She and her husband eventually divorced, and she became somewhat depressed.

    As her addiction grew, the price of her prescriptions rose. She turned to the cheaper substitute: heroin. She eventually lost her job due to poor performance and began withdrawing and even stealing from her family and got into trouble. It was a horrible descent.

    She died on Friday, July 24, 2015, this past year of combined drug toxicity. She was 41 years old. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a niece, a cousin, and a grandmother. There was no obituary in the paper, no public visitation, just a quiet service attended by those who loved her. The sorrow in her family simply can't be repeated.

    I know that the time has expired, but we must simply treat the chemical dependence that these terrible opioids cause in the American people, and we must call to task pharmaceutical companies like Purdue Pharma, Cephalon, Janssen, Endo International, and Actavis, because with over $11 billion of profits from these opioid pills alone, they can surely afford to help the American people.

    Mrs. 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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