Congress working to combat drug epidemic

Published 12:05 pm Saturday, May 14, 2016


This week the House took action on a slate of bills aimed at combatting the growing heroin and opioid abuse epidemic sweeping the country. As you may know, an opioid is a type of narcotic derived from the opium poppy. It is commonly used in strong pain relief medications such as morphine, codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. These drugs are often prescribed in response to serious injuries or chronic pain because of the powerful and essential relief they can provide. However, opioid drugs have a high potential for abuse and addiction, especially when improperly prescribed or taken.

Drug overdoses account for as many as 47,000 deaths a year, and the number of those involving opioid prescription pain relievers has risen drastically over the last several years. This trend has also given rise to greater abuse of heroin, which gives users the same high as opioid prescription pain relievers but is cheaper and more readily available. Alabama is experiencing a particularly significant increase in opioid overdoses. Our state saw an almost 20 percent rise in opioid overdoses between 2013 and 2014, the last year full data is available, which was the fifth highest nationally.

While these statistics are alarming, this issue is much more personal for anyone who has been affected by it. So many know the pain that drug addiction and abuse can cause, whether from having struggled themselves or having a loved one who has. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, one in five Americans know or have a family member who has struggled with addiction to prescription painkillers. No one just wakes up one day and decides they want to be addicted to pills or heroin. It is a gradual slide over time and it can happen to anybody. People living with chronic and debilitating pain need access to medication. However, we need better policies in place that help prevent addiction and more tools to help people get the treatment they need to recover.

That’s why Congress is taking action by working with physicians, law enforcement and the addiction treatment community to develop this slate of bills to address the opioid and heroin problem. From cracking down on drug traffickers and modernizing best practices for pain management prescriptions to improving access to opioid use disorder treatment and ensuring state and local agencies have the proper tools and resources to deal with drug abuse and addiction, this bi-partisan legislative package is designed to combat the problem from all fronts. I look forward to working with the Senate to finalize this package and send it to the president’s desk.

For a complete rundown of the legislation, visit

Martha Roby represents Alabama’s 2nd Congressional District.