Ending the biggest public health emergencies of our generation
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The opioid epidemic continues to devastate our country. It doesn’t discriminate between large and small communities or urban and rural ones. It has shoved its way into every corner of America – from Florida to Oregon and every state in between. My home state of North Carolina has four of the top 25 worst cities for opioid abuse in the U.S., and across the nation, the numbers are even more staggering. Last year alone, there were more than 42,000 overdose deaths that involved an opioid.

The statistics are staggering, but as I travel across my district, I see the faces and hear the stories that accompany them. I’ve met with a local community leader who became addicted to pain pills following a tough surgery. I’ve heard from a mother whose child started down the dangerous path of drug use and then became addicted to heroin. As Fort Bragg’s congressman – the largest military installation in the world – I’ve seen soldiers and veterans become addicted after being prescribed opioids for injuries sustained in combat or in training. Opioid addiction truly knows no bounds.

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Of course, the sad reality is I don’t need to share these stories with you because you probably know someone who suffers from opioid addiction, or you know someone who knows someone. Or maybe you yourself have overcome addiction. President Donald Trump is right to call this the crisis next door. It is about our neighbors, our friends and our family members who are suffering. These are real people battling addiction. They are fighting for their lives. And we are fighting with them.

Make no mistake, the opioid epidemic demands a national, unified response, and last week we moved another step forward. First, President Donald Trump put forward an ambitious proposal to address the driving forces of the opioid crisis. The president’s proposal includes reducing drug demand through education, awareness and preventing over-prescription. It also includes important ideas to cut off the flow of illicit drugs across our borders and within our communities. And finally, it will help those who are struggling with addiction now through evidence-based treatment and recovery support services. These are necessary steps, and I appreciate President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE’s leadership and passion on this issue. I was pleased to see that several of his ideas overlap with the work of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which we continued last week with two hearings.

As a member on the committee, I’ve been deeply invested in this issue for several years. Our efforts have led to bills that are now law – like the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act and the 21st Century Cures Act. These were important steps, and considered by leading national advocates as “the critical response we need.” But as the crisis continues to intensify, so must our efforts. We must ensure successful implementation of the laws passed. And, we need to continue to identify solutions that will help those battling addiction, improve prevention efforts, and support local officials, law enforcement and health care professionals on the front lines.

One idea I’m working on is expanding access to safe ways to dispose of prescription drugs – particularly opioids. DisposeRx is a company in my district that manufactures a powder that mixes with water inside a pill bottle and renders any unused opioids not only inaccessible and inextricable, but also bio-degradable. I believe innovative ideas like this are an important tool in our toolbox.

Frankly, making it easier for people to dispose of unused opioids is common sense. That’s why I wrote a bill to direct the FDA to work with manufacturers to establish programs for efficient return or destruction of opioids. These methods could include mail-back pouches to secure facilities for incineration, or methods to immediately inactivate or destroy unused drugs.  

This year alone, more than 2 million Americans will suffer from addiction to prescription or illegal opioids. That’s a statistic we do not have to accept. I remain committed to working with the administration, my colleagues, and state and local officials to raise awareness and put an end to one of the biggest public health emergencies of our generation.

Rep. Richard HudsonRichard Lane HudsonUS lawmakers celebrate the royal wedding May brings key primaries across nation Path to Dem majority lies in well-educated districts MORE represents North Carolina’s 8th District. He is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.