- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A group of former governors is giving recommendations to President Trump on how to curb the supply of opioids and unnecessary prescriptions in the battle against addiction.

The Bipartisan Policy Center’s Governor’s Council has sent a letter to the Presidential Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis with its recommendations, which include supporting treatment access and reducing the stigma of addiction.

“This addiction that’s spread across the nation is currently the single largest cause of accidental deaths in America,” said Laura Lingle, former Republican governor of Hawaii. “And that makes it a problem that should be front and center.”

The former governors discussed their recommendations Wednesday in a teleconference with reporters.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids are responsible for 91 overdose deaths each day, and the number of prescription opioids sold in the United States has quadrupled since 1999.

Opioids are a class of painkilling drugs that include oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine and heroin, as well as synthetic painkillers such as fentanyl and carfentanil. Regular use of prescription drugs can lead to dependency due to the produced sense of euphoria and pain relief. Misuse of the drugs can result in overdose and death.

In 2015, the highest drug overdose rates were found in eastern states, with West Virginia topping the list. New Hampshire and Ohio followed.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order in March establishing the opioid commission, which is now led by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The group’s mission includes identifying federal funds for combating the opioid crisis, assessing the availability of drug treatment centers and evaluating the best practices for addiction prevention.

The Governors’ Council commended Mr. Trump for creating the commission and said the federal government must take a large role in addressing the opioid epidemic. States alone cannot solve the problem, the governors said.

Steve Beshear, former Democratic governor of Kentucky, said his state passed legislation with a Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House of Representatives that provided positive results to the drug epidemic in 2008 and 2009. Yet, as these initiatives began to work, the new generation of painkillers became much more prominent.

Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, according to drug control experts. Carfentanil, an even stronger synthetic opioid, is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl.

Though Kentucky has begun to address its new drug problem, the epidemic has only increased and become a national concern, Mr. Beshear said.

The Governors’ Council insisted that a bipartisan approach is key to addressing the crisis.

“Addiction affects Democrats and Republicans and independents,” Ms. Lingle said. “It knows no political party.”

Ms. Lingle said that another important aspect in dealing with the crisis is investing funds for drug education and treatment.

For Mr. Beshear, the nation must stop seeing addiction as a “moral failing.”

“We must convince Americans that this problem is a disease and we have to treat it as such,” he said. “And when we get to that point, we’ll have a lot more success in not solving the problem but making significant advances in this epidemic area.”

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