The opioid crisis is a plague on our communities that has left a devastating and permanent impact on Indiana and the country.
Here in Indiana alone, we have lost nearly 15,000 Hoosiers to drug overdoses since 1999 and the number rises each day. This year, opioids continue to be the biggest contributor in drug overdose deaths in our state. On average, we lose five Hoosiers a day to an overdose, and three out of those five individuals overdosed on opioids. Nationwide, we lose roughly 175 Americans a day to this crisis.
President Trump has been leading the fight to make progress on mitigating this epidemic. Last year, the President launched his Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, a program committed to fighting this epidemic through three key measures: stopping the deadly drug supply pouring into our country through our southern border, preventing opioid misuse and abuse, and supporting patients through recovery. Since launching the initiative, drug overdose deaths were down nationally in the most recent 12-month reporting period.
Though the national average is down, there is still much work to be done in our state. Indiana, along with other Midwestern states, has seen an increase in overdose deaths in recent years. The profound losses we face from this epidemic are economic as well: Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business has estimated the epidemic’s economic cost to Indiana alone as $4 billion a year.
Hoosiers sent me to Washington to offer solutions. This week, I introduced two straightforward solutions to help combat this crisis through education and prevention: ensuring every patient knows the risks inherent in every opioid drug they take, and that every prescriber knows how these drugs can shatter – and end – lives.
My first solution, the LABEL Act, would ensure that every prescription opioid bottle features a consistent, clear, and concise warning that the drug may cause dependence, addiction, and overdose. Victims of the opioid crisis often find themselves addicted without realizing they were at risk, and this simple warning would serve as a cost-efficient, constant reminder of the dangers these drugs pose.
Opioid addiction begins with the prescription pad. My second solution, the Safer Prescribing of Controlled Substances Act, would ensure that prescribers applying for a federal license to prescribe controlled substances complete mandatory education on responsible opioid prescribing practices. This bill builds upon existing requirements under federal law by focusing specifically on the heightened risk of addiction and overdose posed by opioid drugs. Reducing the rate of new addictions can have the greatest impact on fully combatting this crisis, and it begins by holding our health professionals accountable.
Fighting this epidemic should not be a polarizing issue. I’ve approached the opioid crisis in a fully bipartisan way, working on and introducing these two solutions with my Democratic colleague Sen. Ed Markey.
These two bills won’t end this crisis alone, but they are simple, straightforward solutions we can start doing today to protect our fellow Hoosiers and Americans from falling victim to a crisis that we’ve already lost so much to.
We’re all in this fight together, and I hope you will join me in finding solutions to help combat this dire emergency every way we can.