As opioid and heroin related deaths in New York continue to climb, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Byron Brown along with families and advocates are calling on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation to help end the opioid epidemic. Senator Gillibrand introduced thePreventing Overprescribing for Pain Act, legislation that would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue guidelines for the safe prescribing of opioids for the treatment of acute pain. The CDC is currently only focused on guidelines for opioids prescribed to treat chronic pain. However, many individuals become addicted to opioids after taking prescriptions for acute pain. Acute pain includes pain following a broken bone, wisdom tooth extraction, or other surgeries, whereas chronic pain is long-term pain that can last weeks, months, or years.

According to the most recent data from the New York State Department of Health, opioid related deaths in Western New York have increased by 600 percent from 16 deaths in 2004 to 111 deaths in 2013. 51 people die each day in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids according to the CDC, nearly five times the number in 1999. Between 1999 and 2010, there was a 400% increase in sales of prescription opioid pain relievers in the United States. However, in that same period, there was no increase in the amount of pain Americans reported, according to the CDC.

“As the opioid epidemic continues to grow in New York and across the country, we can’t wait any longer to take action and curb this growing crisis,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “Part of this epidemic can be attributed to some medical providers over-prescribing opioids. When someone gets a tooth out and only needs medication for three days – why are they sent home from the doctor’s office with 30 Percocet? I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation that will help fix this problem by requiring the CDC to issue clear guidelines to help medical providers safely prescribe opioids for these common types of acute pain. I am urging my colleagues in Congress to pass this measure to help curb the growing opioid crisis.”

“The number of individuals and families devastated by prescription drug addiction has grown at an alarming rate,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown. “Drugs prescribed to reduce pain and improve quality of life are instead leading to addiction, overdose and suicides.”

“This is the worse drug epidemic that we have ever seen, and we’ll need to treat those who suffer from addiction so they can return to a productive life. We prescribed ourselves into this epidemic, and we will not be able to simply treat our way out of it. Prevention is the solution. It is always better to prevent a problem than to let the problem happen and then try to fix it. We will not be able to turn the tide on this epidemic until we eliminate the oversupply of prescribed addictive drugs that is ultimately the root cause of this current drug epidemic. This will be accomplished by a physician work force that is better educated to prevent addiction in the first place and to recognize addiction in its early stages when treatment can be initiated to prevent full-blown addiction,” said Dr. Richard Blondell, Professor at the University at Buffalo’s Department of Family Medicine.

The Facts On the Growing Opioid Epidemic:

  • Nearly 2 million Americans abuse or are addicted to prescription opioids, and nearly half a million more are addicted to heroin according toSAMHSA.
  • In 2014, nearly 19,000 people died in the United States from overdose related to opioid pain relievers, nearly five times the number in 1999 according to CDC.
  • The increase in opioid addiction is linked to an increase in opioid prescriptions. Between 1999 and 2010, there was a 400% increase in sales of prescription opioid pain relievers in the U.S. Over the same time period, there has not been an increased in the amount of pain Americans report according to CDC.
  • In 2012, health care providers wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers – enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills according to CDC.
  • Teenagers who receive an opioid prescription by 12th grade are 33% more likely to abuse opioids after high school. The risk for opioid abuse is even higher among teenagers who report little to no previous use of illicit substances according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  • In a paper published by the American Dental Association in 2011, 64% of dentists surveyed preferred prescribing hydrocodone with acetaminophen for a third molar extraction, for an average of 20 pills per prescription.
  • 4 in 5 individuals who use heroin report prior abuse of prescription opioids, according to SAMHSA.