Lawmakers demand action on heroin epidemic

Lawmakers demand action on heroin epidemic
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The chairman of the House Judiciary committee is blasting the Obama administration over a nationwide heroin epidemic that has led to a spike in overdoses and deaths.

“Despite the ongoing heroin epidemic, despite the surge in deaths, and despite that illicit controlled substances and their purveyors pose a lethal threat to the American people, the Obama administration has continued to shirk its duty to protect this nation from dangerous narcotics,” said Chairman Bob GoodlatteBob GoodlatteLawmakers grapple with warrantless wiretapping program House votes to crack down on undocumented immigrants with gang ties House Judiciary Dems want panel to review gun silencer bill MORE (R-Va.) at a hearing Tuesday.

Goodlatte joined members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations to investigate effective ways to stem the mounting drug crisis.

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“Heroin can be found in virtually every corner of our country. Large and small, city and rural,” John Riley, acting Deputy Administrator for the Drug Enforcement Association (DEA), told lawmakers about the scope of the problem.

The DEA’s 2015 National Drug Threat Survey (NDTS) revealed that heroin had surpassed methamphetamine as the most threatening drug in the nation. And in recent years, the user base for heroin has been growing across income levels and among both men and women.

There has been bipartisan concern over the heroin epidemic. Lawmakers pointed to the increased availability and lowered cost of the drug as well as the rise in prescription drug users abusing heroin for the epidemic.

“The price of heroin has fallen to new lows, about ten dollars a day,” explained Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif). “Prescription opioids cost about 80 dollars a day. For those already addicted to prescription drugs, heroin becomes an attractive option.”

Goodlatte blamed opportunistic drug traffickers.

“Drug trafficking is an extremely profitable business. Traffickers are interested in one thing—money—and they have decided to cash in on the misery of American citizens,” he said.

Rep. Trey GowdyTrey GowdyGowdy: Sarah Sanders doesn't get say whether Comey broke the law Trump condemns Rice's unmasking: 'What she did was wrong' Sessions, Coats push for permanent renewal of controversial surveillance law MORE (R-S.C.) used the hearing to highlight his push for sentencing reform.

“I’m not very good with math, which means I’m in the right line of work, but help me here,” joked Gowdy. “Why can you go to prison for five years for 112 dosages units of crack cocaine, when 3,000 dosages is what it takes to trigger that mandatory minimum for heroin. That seems absurd to me.”

The Obama administration announced plans last year to stem heroin deaths by increasing the availability of naloxone, a drug that can prevent overdoses.

The administration targeted $133 million in its fiscal 2016 budget for preventing heroin and drug overdose deaths.