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Obama Seeks $1 Billion to Fight Drug Abuse

by Maggie Fox /

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President Barack Obama will ask for more than $1 billion in the new budget to fight drug abuse and overdoses, which are at record highs in the U.S., the White House said Tuesday.

Obama’s budget request to Congress aims to expand treatment for people who get hooked on prescription opioid painkillers such as Oxycontin, as well as people who use the cheaper street drug heroin.

There’s no doubt it’s a crisis — more than 47,000 people died from drug overdoses last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. That's more than died in traffic accidents.

Deaths from opioid drug overdoses have hit an all-time record in the U.S., rising 14 percent in just one year, and heroin deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2013.

Most of the $1 billion would go to states under joint state-federal agreements to get more treatment capacity going. A small amount — $50 million — would pay for a corps of 700 providers who know how to use drugs and therapy to treat drug addiction.

Related: As Heroin Epidemic Grows, So Does Rehab Wait

“Second, the President’s budget includes approximately $500 million — an increase of more than $90 million — to continue and build on current efforts across the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to expand state-level prescription drug overdose prevention strategies, increase the availability of medication-assisted treatment programs, improve access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, and support targeted enforcement activities,” the White House said in a statement.

Naloxone, also known by its trade name Narcan, can quickly reverse the effects of an overdose by sticking to brain cells and stopping the drug from getting in. Many states and cities are now making sure first responders have naloxone on hand to save the lives of people who have overdosed.

The CDC says drug registries, educating doctors and patients, and programs to help people avoid becoming dependent on pain medications can all help. Prescription drug monitoring programs help doctors identify potential abusers.

One study published last year found that primary care doctors, not pain specialists, are by far the biggest prescribers of opioid drugs, even as sales of prescription opioids have risen by 300 percent since 1999.

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