Statement from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids President and CEO, Marcia Lee Taylor on New CDC Report on Heroin Overdose Deaths

Marcia Lee TaylorHeroin and prescription painkiller abuse is having a devastating effect on public health and safety across the United States – and without proper prevention and treatment, more families and communities will be impacted.

According to a concerning new report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled in the decade between 2002 and 2013. The CDC also cites the surge in heroin abuse is largely due to the increased abuse of prescription (Rx) opioids. National research studies show that 4 out of 5 heroin users first began with recreational use of prescription pain relievers[1] and nearly 50 percent of young people who inject heroin started by abusing Rx drugs.[2]

The new CDC data is further evidence that more must be done to prevent heroin abuse and prevention and treatment are key components to turning the tide on heroin and prescription drug addictions. We know from experience that the most effective way to confront these challenges is to initiate a comprehensive response that addresses all aspects of this critical public health issue.

At the federal level, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) is needed now more than ever to help ameliorate this national problem. CARA is an all-inclusive response to opiate and heroin addiction that includes prevention, law enforcement strategies and expansion of evidence-based treatment and support for those in, or seeking, recovery. The passing of CARA would help improve the lives of the millions of Americans affected by addiction as it is a bi-partisan piece of legislation and a commonsense solution to the heroin and opiate abuse problem facing the U.S. today.

On the prevention front, we must also insist upon an infrastructure that positions addiction as a public health issue, and gives us a forum for change, rather than a debate shadowed in stigma. The government safety net we all once relied on – and some may think still exists – has been decimated. Federal prevention programs have been zeroed out, and lessons in drug prevention are no longer covered in many schools.

With prevention programs that have all but disappeared, one place to start is with the family, providing education and resources so they can feel empowered to talk about drugs, including prescription opioids, with their kids. One free resource to help families navigate and address Rx medicine abuse is the Medicine Abuse Project (MAP) – a national action campaign that aims to prevent half a million teens from abusing medicine. The Medicine Abuse Project website – – includes information about the prevention of prescription drug abuse and over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine abuse.

It also includes a comprehensive drug guide to help parents learn about the Rx and OTC drugs that teens are most commonly abusing, including what they look like, their street or slang names and more information about potentials side effects and how they’re taken. MAP also provides free tips on how to safeguard and dispose of medicine at home, as well as tools for parents, health care providers, law enforcement/communities and educators.

We all can play a part to turn the tide on prescription drug abuse. For healthcare providers, it may be greater prescriber education. For others, it is a focus on effective treatment. For pharmaceutical companies, it can be a charge to create abuse-deterrent formulations. All are critical if we are going to work together to prevent addiction.

—Marcia Lee Taylor

[1] Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

[2] Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

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    September 9, 2015 at 2:36 PM

    people are under the misconception it’s. only young one’s using heroin, or any drug’s , there are more older people using , and it’s killing them, robberies are up etec

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    July 10, 2015 at 8:03 PM

    “4 out of 5 heroin users first began with recreational use of prescription pain relievers”

    This is an interesting fact. Hmm. Also we have been making so much progress against the Drug War, I just hate to see renewed calls for greater policing and coerced ‘treatment’ that has actually been scientifically proven to increase overall prison time and suicide. I also don’t like statements that start with ‘experience shows’ when in fact experience shows we haven’t learned much from our experience.

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