USA TODAY | May 23, 2018
Rep. Kevin McCarthy
Our nation is in the midst of the deadliest drug crisis in history — a crisis fueled by opioids.
More than 630,000 Americans have died from drug overdoses since the turn of the century. That means more people have died from drugs in less than two decades as those who died in the Civil War. More than half of the deaths in 2016 involved opioids.
This death toll is staggering, but the consequences of drugs are not limited just to the more than two million Americans who are addicted to them.
Drugs inflict enormous damage on American families and communities by tearing spouses, parents, friends and neighbors away from the relationships that make life meaningful.
In Kern County, Calif., my home, opioids killed 51 people just in 2016. Citizens of Ridgecrest, a nearby town, hold an Overdose Awareness Day each year to remember the neighbors they lose to overdoses.
The drug trade endangers brave law enforcement officers who are on the front lines of the opioid crisis.
Drugs even harm the youngest and most vulnerable among us. The number of babies suffering from withdrawal because of their mothers’ opioid abuse has increased five-fold since 2000. So even as we attempt to heal the current generation of people addicted to drugs, the next generation is being exposed to drugs in the womb.
Beating the deadliest drug crisis in history will require nothing less than the biggest response in history.
That response is already under way, led by President Trump and Republicans in Congress.
In 2016, the Republican-led Congress passed and President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, or CARA, which provides critical resources to states, cities and nonprofits to fight opioid abuse.
Because of CARA, more health care professionals are licensed to prescribe addiction treatment medications to patients. This reform is important especially for patients in rural areas with few doctors.
CARA was an umbrella attempt to limit the damage of the opioid crisis. As the carnage from drugs continues to mount, Americans should know that more help is on the way.
Trump has declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency, instructing federal agencies to increase their efforts to stop illegal drugs at the border and raise awareness about over-prescription of painkillers.
The House of Representatives is hard at work to support the president’s efforts. No fewer than eight committees are working on bills to combat the opioid crisis. The Energy and Commerce Committee considered and advanced 25 opioid bills last week alone.
Congress is advancing bills that would help precisely those people who are most threatened by opioids.
For example, the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act would reform an outdated law so that patients’ substance abuse history can be listed in their medical records. This bill, promoted by Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., will give doctors access to information that can prevent tragic overdoses and improve patient safety.
The STOP Act, promoted by Rep. Mike Bishop, R-Mich., would reduce the flow of Chinese fentanyl into our country by giving law enforcement new tools to detect suspicious packages in the mail.
As important as our legislative agenda is to solving this crisis, healing the wounds of drug abuse will take more than government.
It will take a commitment by every citizen to fulfill our duties to one another. That means supporting people near us who are struggling with drug addiction — and supporting their family members and loved ones, as well.
In illegal drugs, America faces an enemy that has claimed more lives than the bloodiest war in our history. We need all hands on deck to defeat it.