Monday, May 16, 2016

Macklemore joins President Obama in effort to fight prescription opioid abuse

Posted By on Mon, May 16, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Over the weekend, Macklemore opened up about his struggle with drug abuse — specifically prescription painkillers — during President Obama's weekly address. Together the two called for more public discussion surrounding opioid abuse and treatment. President Obama urged Congress to approve $1.1 billion in funding for treatment and research into the issue. 

The Grammy-winning rapper met with the president last Thursday to talk about drug addiction for his upcoming documentary about opioid abuse.
"When you're going through it, it's hard to imagine there can be anything worse than addiction," Macklemore said. "But shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help that they actually need. Addiction isn't a personal choice or a personal failing. And sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better. It takes a strong community and accessible resources." 

Nationwide, deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000, Obama said during the address. According to the Center for Disease Control, opioids contributed to more than 28,000 deaths in 2014, the year with more overdose deaths than any other year on record.

Obama applauded efforts by the House of Representatives, which recently passed several bills highlighting the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemics, but said without funding for treatment and research, it wasn't enough

Obama also called for more training for doctors who prescribe painkillers. 

In March, the CDC released the first national standards for prescription painkillers. Among the 12 recommendations are for doctors to first try ibuprofen and aspirin to treat pain and to prescribe small doses for shorter periods of time. Another is to avoid prescribing opioids, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone, at the same time as benzodiazepines, such as diazepam — commonly used for anxiety.

Earlier this month, an LA Times investigation into Purdue Pharma, which makes the opioid painkiller OxyContin, revealed that the drugmakers' claims of 120-hour pain relief were false. Furthermore, the Times investigation found, Purdue knew for decades that OxyContin, a chemical cousin of heroin, did not provide many people with a full 12 hours of relief but continued with that message to protect revenue. 

"Even before OxyContin went on the market, clinical trials showed many patients weren't getting 12 hours of relief," the Times investigation reports. "Since the drug's debut in 1996, the company has been confronted with additional evidence, including complaints from doctors, reports from its own sales reps and independent research.

"Purdue tells doctors to prescribe stronger doses, not more frequent ones, when patients complain that OxyContin doesn't last 12 hours. That approach creates risks of its own. Research shows that the more potent the dose of an opioid such as OxyContin, the greater the possibility of overdose and death." 

This year, Gov. Jay Inslee signed Ricky's Law, which provides a means for family and friends of those addicted to drugs to involuntarily commit them for treatment, similar to the system for commitment of the mentally ill. 

The new law, which allocates millions in funding through at least 2020, also directs the state to build facilities designated for involuntary substance abuse treatment and asks the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to evaluate the its effect. 

According to 2014 data from the state Department of Health, though there has been a steady decline in prescription overdose related deaths in the state, the number of deaths from heroin and opioids has doubled since 2008.

Beyond his personal experience with addiction, Macklemore pointed to a friend's drug overdose death, which he chronicled with his song "Kevin" off the 2016 album The Unruly Mess I've Made. 

"I didn't just know someone, I lost someone," Macklemore said. "My friend Kevin overdosed on painkillers when he was just 21 years old. Addiction is like any disease. It doesn't discriminate. It doesn't care what color you are, whether you're a guy or a girl, rich or poor; whether you live in an inner city, a suburb or rural America. This doesn't just happen to other people's kids or in some other neighborhood. It can happen to any of us." 

Watch the full address below: 

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About The Author

Mitch Ryals

Mitch covers cops, crime and courts for the Inlander. He moved to Spokane in 2015 from his hometown of St. Louis, and is a graduate of the University of Missouri. He likes bikes, beer and baseball. And coffee. He dislikes lemon candy, close-mindedness and liars. And temperatures below 40 degrees.