AUDIO INTERVIEW & ARTICLE: U.S. Opioid Epidemic Out of Control

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Deaths caused by overdoses from prescription pain killers and those caused by the increasing availability of cheap heroin have reached such epidemic levels in this once-great nation that it has become a 2016 presidential election issue, and President Barack Hussein Obama has been forced to address this issue, not just because of the sobering statistics that can’t be ignored, but from educational pressure groups formed as a result of losing family members.

On October 19, two days before Obama’s visit to Charleston, West Virginia, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive interview with the spokesperson of one of the groups whose activism forced the president’s hand.

Dave Gahary spoke with Judy Rummler, the chair of the Fed Up! Coalition, about her involvement in the group, its latest rally in Washington, D.C., and its successes, in this important interview (19:54)

U.S. Opioid Epidemic Out-of-Control

Each day 44 people die from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin in the U.S., 16,000 a year

Prescription painkiller and heroin overdoses have more than quadrupled in the past 20 years

Vicodin the most prescribed drug in America

CDC has called opioid addiction and overdose deaths an epidemic

By Dave Gahary

Deaths caused by overdoses from prescription pain killers and those caused by the increasing availability of cheap heroin have reached such epidemic levels in this once-great nation that it has become a 2016 presidential election issue, as New Hampshire poll participants put it above jobs and the economy as something candidates should address. President Barack Hussein Obama has been forced to address this issue, not just because of the sobering statistics that can’t be ignored, but from educational pressure groups formed as a result of losing family members.

On October 21 he visited West Virginia, the state hardest hit by drug overdose deaths, promising his administration would do more to assist struggling communities losing their loved ones to this latest scourge sweeping the country. According to a report by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, West Virginia’s overdose death rate is more than twice the national average, where around 3,000 residents of the Mountain State have overdosed on prescription painkillers since 2010.

West Virginia’s not the exception sadly, but the rule in 21st century America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid-related overdose deaths have been steadily increasing since records have been kept. In 2013, 16,235 died from prescription opioids, and 8,257 from heroin. Although the increase in prescription opioid deaths was only 1% from 2012, it was up 39% for heroin for the same time period. Deaths from prescription opioids, however, are twice as high from 2001. In 2013, total drug overdose deaths were 43,982, up 6% from the previous year.

On October 19, two days before Obama’s visit to Charleston, West Virginia, AMERICAN FREE PRESS conducted an exclusive interview with the spokesperson of one of the groups whose activism forced the president’s hand.

Judy Rummler, the chair of the Fed Up! Coalition, who lost a son to a prescription drug overdose following an injury, spoke with AFP about her involvement in the group, its latest rally in Washington, D.C., and its successes.



 

Steve struggled with his pain for eight or nine years and tried all sorts of ways to get relief from his pain,” she began, “ but eventually a well-intentioned family doctor prescribed OxyContin and after five years he was very addicted and he was a changed person.”

Steve was 43 when he died.

Mrs. Rummler explained how this scourge can affect nearly all of us.

“Before that he’d been an all-conference soccer player, a dean’s list student at the University of Minnesota, a gifted musician, had lots of friends, and was engaged to be married,” she said.

What brought the coalition together was the federal government’s failure to respond to the pleas of the victims’ families.

“Many of us had tried for a long time to go to the FDA to try to get them to change the labeling of the drugs so that doctors would understand the risks and patients would understand the risks associated with taking them,” she explained, “since there’s no real evidence that these are safe and effective for long-term use.”

She pointed out that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gets about 60% of their money from the pharmaceutical industry in the form of fees, thanks to the Prescription Drug User Fee Act of 1992, which allowed the federal regulator to collect fees from drug companies to fund their new drug approval process.

Mrs. Rummler lamented that “the FDA is currently approving a steady stream of new opioids, overruling advisory committee recommendations and sometimes not even asking for advisory committee recommendations.”

“There’s no need for another opioid drug,” she said “there are already plenty of them.”

Mrs. Rummler detailed one of the successes of the coalition.

“The first thing we were advocating for was the rescheduling of hydrocodone combination products that were classified as a Class III drug,” she explained. “They’ve now been reclassified to Class II, which means that doctors cannot write refills for these drugs.”

“Addiction doesn’t discriminate by gender or by income level or by education level,” Mrs. Rummler warned. “It can happen to anyone.”

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Dave Gahary, a former submariner in the U.S. Navy, is the host of AFP’s ‘Underground Interview’ series.

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