KONFRONTASI - US President Barack Obama has unveiled a new initiative to tackle the heroin crisis across the United States.
On Wednesday, Obama visited Virginia, the capital of opioid in the US, where he detailed the plan, The Guardian reported.
“This crisis is taking lives, it’s destroying families, it’s shattering communities all across the country,” Obama said at a roundtable discussion with community members, members of law enforcement and health care officials. “And that’s the thing about substance abuse – it doesn’t discriminate.”
“It touches everybody, from celebrities to college students to soccer moms to inner-city kids – white, black, Hispanic, young, old, rich, poor, urban, suburban, men and women.”
Over 37,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2013 alone and prescription painkillers accounted for 16,000 of the deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection.
Raising awareness about opiate painkillers among prescribers and expanding access to medication-assisted treatment were some of the proposals posited in the initiative.
The plan also calls for treatment of nonviolent drug offenders rather than putting them behind bars.
“We should approach substance abuse as an opportunity to intervene, not incarcerate,” said the president.
Obama said one of the reasons that prevents families dealing with addiction from seeking help is “shame and fear and stigma,” adding that a lot could be done by simply changing terminology related to addiction, for instance through replacing words like “junkie” with “father or daughter or son or friend or sister”.
“Then you understand there’s a human element behind this,” Obama noted.
West Virginia has the highest rate of overdose deaths, more than twice the national figure.[PTV]