Commentary: The end to the opioid crisis
By Alyssa Ma, Brookeville, MD
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 676 Minnesotans died from opioid overdoses this year. 65,648 other Americans have suffered the same tragic fate. The opioid epidemic is now America's deadliest overdose crisis due to its misuse and addictiveness. More than two million Americans are dependent on and abuse these prescription drugs. These "harmless" prescriptions usually lead to the use of deadlier drugs such as heroin and cocaine. The federal government has spent over a billion dollars on expanding treatment and prevention programs, and President Donald J. Trump even declared the epidemic a national public health emergency to combat it. With over ninety people overdosing per day, the opioid crisis is a national crisis and is impacting everyone, even those in Minnesota.
Minnesota's 7th District is currently the most proactive in seeking lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors. Minnesota's lawsuits will "seek financial damages and better oversight of opioids to address what is described as a public health epidemic" according to local news source Pioneer Press. Douglas County attorney Chad Larson has stated that he will "hold manufacturers responsible for their misconduct related to opioid marketing and to hold distributors responsible for their misconduct related to improperly over supplying portions of the market." Additionally, the funds obtained will provide treatment for patients, "directly serving Douglas County and its residents." Ramsey, Washington, and many other counties have also followed suit, seeking to reform marketing practices of pharmaceutical companies.
While there have also been multiple nationwide lawsuits, the most effective and efficient way to end the opioid crisis is through Congress. This epidemic is a bipartisan issue as both the Democratic and Republican parties have demanded for change on their party platforms. To effectively promote this change, the Restoring Enforcement Standards to Track Opioids Responsively and Effectively Act of 2017 (RESTORE Act) was introduced to the House of Representatives on October 19, 2017. The bill "ensure[s] that the Drug Enforcement Administration has the authority to carry out needed enforcement actions for drug diversion control investigations and operations to combat the opioid epidemic." This bill also repeals the unsuccessful Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015 that only restricted the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Justice Department by limiting their authority to stop suspicious and potentially dangerous opioid shipments. Collin Peterson, the Congressional Representative of Minnesota District 7, is already cosponsoring and advocating for the RESTORE Act in hopes of ending the opioid epidemic. However, there is still more to be done.
The RESTORE Act is currently in the hands of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, a House of Representatives Judiciary subcommittee. The most Peterson can currently do is to place the bill at the top of the policy agenda, ensuring that it will be passed in the House of Representatives. By prioritizing this bill, Peterson will be able to protect the lives of Americans and Minnesotans as well as his own representative seat for the 2018 midterm election. With the success of the RESTORE Act, Peterson will be re-elected for his contributions to a bill that will end the opioid crisis. Peterson once stated that "The United States is facing an unprecedented opioid epidemic, and it is critical that Congress develops effective policy to combat addiction." Congress has developed that effective policy. It is now Peterson's turn to promote it.
Editor's note: The writer is a student at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has been following Alexandria politics for the last three months as a part of a school project.