Saying Pennsylvania is in a prescription and drug abuse crisis, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania) is pushing for legislation to study and fight opioid abuse.
The Prescription Drug Abuse Act would include training for practitioners, state grants for drug abuse education, and the creation of a national registry to track opioid related deaths.
Pennsylvania has the third highest rate of heroin abuse in the U.S. and ranks 14th in drug overdose mortality, according to state Attorney General Kathleen Kane.
Casey said the state’s drug abuse problem is too large to ignore.
“Too many people are falling victim to either prescription drug abuse or heroin abuse,” he said. “And some people switch between the two based on what they can find and what they can afford.”
Teens and adults who used prescription painkillers for nonmedical purposes were 19 times more likely to have used heroin within the last year and the majority of overdose deaths in Pennsylvania are from prescription drugs.
The legislation would also create a Controlled Substances Clinical Standards Commission, which would develop dosing guidelines for methadone, and establish a National Opioid Death Registry.
Western Pennsylvania was rocked recently by 22 overdose deaths related to the use of fentanyl-laced heroin, and Casey said the creation of national archive could crackdown on these types of incidents.
“It’s really the kind of record keeping that we sometimes assume is happening—or a database, or in this case, we call it a registry—that we assume is already developed,” he said. “In this case, there’s not one.”
It isn’t known how much these programs could cost, Casey doesn’t expect much opposition to the bill.
“I think it’s pretty reasonable legislation,” he said. “It’s not a big new program. It’s really improving how we collect data, how much training is done and really elevating the awareness and the recordkeeping and the intensity of the training.”