Rep. Nick J. Rahall
Every day in southern West Virginia, news stories confront us about the vicious cycle prescription drugs wreak upon on our communities: crime, child neglect, overdoses, death, and whole families torn apart. We are traveling a difficult and challenging path to save an entire generation of Americans.
Recently, I announced the re-launch of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse. The goal of the Caucus is to raise awareness of abuse and to develop innovative and effective treatment, prevention, law enforcement and research policy solutions in the federal sphere.
My good friend and I, Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, will serve as co-chairs of the caucus, which was formed in 2009. Working together, and with the commitment of our colleagues in Congress for action on a national level, our goal is to explore, develop and expand solutions to conquer the problem of prescription drug abuse.
Billions of dollars are lost annually in our country due to illegal use of drugs. Drug abuse is happening around the clock in schools, homes and businesses; on front porches, in backyards and living rooms, and on street corners every day of the year. Drug abuse negatively impacts our workforce, it runs up our health care costs, it requires millions of dollars for national and international interdiction, and it claims the lives of athletic and entertainment stars along with our family, friends and neighbors every single day.
An estimated 40,000 people in West Virginia are addicted to some form of controlled substances and one-fifth of all pregnant women in our state have a drug issue that will impact their newborn child.
Fighting the scourge of prescription pill abuse may be the biggest challenge of our society, and the only way this destructive trend can be reversed is if everyone — I mean, everyone — gets involved. Our nation’s future — our children’s and grandchildren’s future — hangs in the balance.
It’s a tragic fact, as Congressman Rogers said: “This drug problem not only affects my congressional district, but has magnified in scope and intensity, cross-cutting geographical and socio-economic boundaries, hitting communities across the country.”
As lawmakers in Congress better understand and recognize the scope and devastation of this scourge, the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse can help unite legislators and interested parties in preventing the misuse of powerful narcotics. With the help of Congressman Rogers, I am confident that solutions are
within reach and that we can continue to make a difference in Washington in this battle against prescription drug abuse.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), the number of emergency room visits from prescription drug abuse has nearly doubled in America over the last five years. Equally troubling, there has been a staggering 400 percent increase over the past decade in the number of hospital admissions for prescription drug abuse. Clearly, this is a growing and alarming trend which is impacting people of all ages, but it creates additional problems for our children and their families.
Without a doubt, prescription drugs are among the greatest gifts provided to humanity by medical science. They have proven to be great healers and allowed individuals who once had no hope of normal futures to live quite normally, unfettered by illness and pain. It is no wonder that those tiny orbs have often been called “miracle pills.” But prescription drugs have also turned countless lives into a living hell.
There’s a devastating toll that drug abuse can impose on a family. The resources, patience, and persistence, and the tests of loyalty and love required can be immense.
So let us continue our quest — here and today — for a future as bright as our dreams. And as a father and grandfather, I hope that West Virginians will join me in acting with dispatch and compassion and with an acute understanding of the enormity of the challenge before us.
Together, we can save our state from the scourge of prescription drug abuse.
May we have the courage and the wisdom, and exercise the persistence, to make our goal a reality.
(Rahall represents West Virginia’s 3rd District.)