ATLANTA — Chuck Rosenberg, acting administrator of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, asked for help from advocates and communities at the fifth National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit, which ran through Thursday in Atlanta.
“We’re not going to prosecute, enforce or jail our way out of this mess,” Rosenberg said. “We must attack the supply side, and double/triple/quadruple our efforts on the demand side. “It’s a community problem requiring a community solution.”
Rosenberg encouraged teachers to invite the DEA into classrooms and utilize its demand-reduction coordinators. He also touted the reinstatement of the DEA’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day, which provides both a safe way to dispose of prescription and over-the-counter medications and a way to educate people about the potential for abuse.
For the first time, Major League Baseball has agreed to promote the DEA’s 11th Take-Back Day, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 30.
In other summit highlights:
Two startling statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention included:
* There have been 500,000 drug overdoses in the United States since 1999 – more than were suffered in WWII, Korean and Vietnam wars combined.
* In 2013, U.S. healthcare providers wrote 249 million opioid prescriptions – enough for every American to have a bottle of pills.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Dr. Eli Capilouto, president of the University of Kentucky, told summit attendees that research, education, coordination and support are keys to combating the epidemic.
“It is imperative that we strive to achieve a balanced approach to ensure that people suffering from pain can get the relief they need while minimizing the potential for negative consequences,” Volkow said. “We support the development and implementation of multi-pronged, evidence-based strategies that minimize the intrinsic risks of opioid medications and make effective, long-term treatments more widely available.”
Frieden outlined three key principles to improve prescription drug problems: Only use opioids when the benefits are expected to outweigh the substantial risks; when opioids are used, the lowest possible effective dosage should be used; and monitor all patients closely to minimize the risk. He also praised the work of the summit.
“The impact of opioids on American communities and families is heart-breaking – every day 40 people lose their lives to prescription opioids,” Frieden said. “The summit brings together many who have been affected by and are part of the solution to this epidemic to advise federal, state and local leaders working to reverse it.”
Capilouto highlighted the extensive work his University is doing throughout the region.
“Too many Kentucky families are too often confronted by the dark and painful scourge of prescription drug abuse and opioid addiction. It’s an epidemic that penetrates communities across the nation, both urban and rural, but has especially intractable roots in Appalachia and the regions served by the University of Kentucky,” Capilouto said.
“As Kentucky’s flagship research university, and with the support of our federal leaders, the University of Kentucky is poised to help those afflicted by these public health crises,” he said. “The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit offers a tremendous opportunity to shed further light on these issues and discuss potential solutions.”
The summit also featured a Congressional Leaders Forum with U.S. Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and U.S. Reps. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Georgia, 1st District; Paul A. Gosar, R-Arizona, 4th District; Frank C. Guinta, R-New Hampshire, 1st District; Evan Jenkins, R-West Virginia, 3rd District; William R. “Bill” Keating, D-Massachusetts, 9th District; Harold “Hal” Rogers, R-Kentucky, 5th District, chair, Committee on Appropriations, and founding co-chair, Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse.
The National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit is the largest national collaboration of federal, state and local professionals seeking to address prescription drug abuse, misuse and diversion. More than 1,900 of the nation’s top researchers, law enforcement, advocates and policy-makers convened for the summit.