Taylor Submits Testimony to End the Heroin and Prescription Drug Epidemic

    This week, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids President and CEO, Marcia Lee Taylor, submitted testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee for Wednesday’s hearing urging for ways to address the heroin and prescription drug epidemic. The hearing brought together governors, U.S. Senators and law enforcement officials and called for more funding and stronger measures to fight opioid addiction.

    Read her testimony here:

    Good morning Chairman Grassley, Ranking Member Leahy and members of the Judiciary Committee. My name is Marcia Lee Taylor. I am the President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit dedicated to reducing substance abuse among adolescents by supporting families and engaging with teens. Thank you for holding this hearing today to examine ways to address the opiate epidemic and the countless tragedies it is leaving in its wake across the country. 

    Partnership research shows that one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug in their lifetime.[1] And due to the increase in prescription drug abuse, drug overdoses now exceed car crashes as the number one cause of accidental deaths in the United States.[2]  Behind these often-cited statistics are families and communities that have been torn apart by the misuse and abuse of prescription medicine and, increasingly, heroin. Many have suffered the ultimate tragedy of the loss of a daughter or son. The Partnership works closely with many of these families and their losses motivate our prevention and education campaigns, our efforts to get Americans to “Mind Their Meds” and our advocacy to fix the systems that failed their families.

    The Partnership is conducting a national education and action campaign addressing this epidemic and has long been working to empower families who are grappling to find help for a loved one addicted to opiates or other drugs. Through our national programs such as the Medicine Abuse Project, we help parents talk with their kids about abuse of prescription and over-the-counter medications and offer guidance on how to monitor and secure these products in their homes. With our toll-free Helpline and suite of science-based online tools, we support families, helping them find answers and hope. Finally, we support a range of policy solutions aimed at stopping addiction before it starts, including increased funding for prevention programs, greater use of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, better prescriber education and abuse-deterrent formulations of controlled substances. 

    I am pleased to express the Partnership’s support for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) which would provide invaluable support and resources to the prevention, treatment and recovery fields. With 90 percent of addictions beginning in the teenage years[3], we know there is a critical need for effective drug prevention programming. CARA will enhance these prevention and educational efforts—particularly aimed at teens and parents—to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery.

    Over the course of the past decade, our national prevention infrastructure has been decimated and our ability to educate young people and prevent more teens from becoming addicted is now significantly hobbled. Those prevention groups that remain are doing all that we can, but we desperately need help. When federal funding for the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was eliminated, the Partnership refused to watch the Campaign’s popular and proven Above the Influence (ATI) teen brand disappear so we agreed to take it over and run it privately. It is now the only national teen prevention program serving as a counterweight to the proliferation of pro-drug messaging in the media today. 

    The campaign, which empowers teens to make positive life choices, is now operated on a pro-bono model, opposed to its previous paid media model. Although teens continue to see Above the Influence within this model, they are exposed to dramatically less messaging than before, which ultimately threatens the impact of prevention efforts. Above the Influence has been proven to be effective in strengthening teen anti-drug perceptions and intent to use[4], and it needs to be taken back to scale nationally in order to convey the risk of opiate and other drug abuse and reverse the stark addiction and overdose trends that are creating heartbreak in families across the country. If we do not adequately invest in prevention programs, we contribute to the devastating consequences of opiate abuse, including emergency room visits, treatment admissions and overdose deaths.

    The Partnership also supports the provisions in CARA to address the current prescription drug and heroin epidemic by providing critical naloxone trainings for law enforcement so that more overdose deaths can be prevented, expanding treatment and intervention programs that are evidence-based and building a comprehensive prescription drug monitoring program to track the dispensing of opioids. All are critical elements to reversing this multi-faceted problem.

    CARA is a significant step in the right direction because of its comprehensive approach to impact the lives of the 85 million Americans affected by addiction. Passage of this bill will help curb the prescription drug and heroin abuse epidemic that is ravaging our families and communities. Thank you for holding this hearing today and I hope the Committee will pass this important legislation quickly.

    [1] Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS), Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

    [2] Prescription Drug Overdose in the United States: Fact Sheet, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/overdose/facts.html

    [3] CASA Columbia

    [4] Pechmann and Carpenter, “Exposure to the Above the Influence Antidrug Advertisements and Adolescent Marijuana Use in the United States, 2006-2008”, American Journal of Public Health, 2011;  Sheier et al., “An Empirical Assessment of the Above the Influence Campaign”, Journal of Drug Education, 2011; Slater et al., “Assessing Media Campaigns Linking Marijuana Non-use with Autonomy and Aspirations:  ‘Be Under Your Own Influence’ and ONDCP’s ‘Above the Influence’”, Prevention Science, 2011

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