It’s considered the most fatal drug crisis in United States history.
Opioid addiction is sweeping the nation. Medically used primarily for pain relief — codeine and morphine are among examples — liberally prescribed opioids also serve as gateway drugs to heroin.
Powerful opioids block pain and create artificial endorphins — feel-good chemicals naturally manufactured in the brain.
Along with the escalating abuse of prescription opioids, making matters worse is an influx of illicitly manufactured fentanyl (a pain-management drug for advanced-stage cancer patients) that’s laced with heroin.
It’s all contributed to prescription and illicit opioids becoming the primary drivers of drug overdose death in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In 2015, more than 50,000 Americans died of drug overdoses, which also is the leading cause of death of Americans younger than 50.
The dire situation isn’t lost on Kansas’ 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, a physician from Great Bend who recently joined U.S. Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois, a Democrat, as she introduced the Addiction Recovery for Rural Communities Act.
All involved know there’s a need to adequately fund treatment and prevention programs. The bipartisan bill is intended to address the problem in rural communities in particular, as drug-related deaths are nearly 50 percent higher in those areas.
The legislation would set aside 20 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program grant funding for substance abuse treatment, and prioritize USDA Community and Facilities Direct Loan and Grant applications focused on substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery services.
The plan also would prioritize USDA Rural Health and Safety Education grant funding for applicants seeking to improve education and outreach on opioids and other substance abuse issues.
State lawmakers in Kansas also took a positive step this year by arming first responders with emergency medicine that can counteract an individual’s opioid overdose. The legislation received unanimous support from both sides of the aisle.
There’s nothing partisan about the opioid crisis and its deadly fallout. While government has been slow to react and there’s still much work to do, it’s encouraging to see lawmakers of all political persuasions work together on solutions.