- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2017

The federal government will start drug testing employees for OxyContin and other commonly abused painkillers as part of President Trump’s effort to get a handle on the opioids crisis.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration said the new guidelines will check for the semi-synthetic opioids to ensure that federal workers are clean and sober on the job, particularly in positions that affect national security or interact with the public.

Besides OxyContin, employees will be tested for opioids known on the market as Vicodin, Percocet, and Dilaudid.

The agency said Friday that employees with a valid prescription for the drugs will not be reported.

“We felt it necessary to make these revisions because of advances in science and technology and because of the increased misuse of prescription opioids,” said Elinore McCance-Katz, an assistant secretary at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Preliminary figures from the National Center for Health Statistics suggest that overdose-related deaths soared to more than 64,000 in 2016, a more than 20 percent increase from 2015. Experts attribute the surge to the deadly influx of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids into the heroin supply.

Research suggests many users of illicit opioids got hooked on prescription painkillers first.

Policymakers have begun to suggest non-opioid alternative for treating pain. They’re also cracking down on the number of pills in circulation for routine medical procedures, fearing the addictive drugs will be diverted to the drug market or used beyond their medical purpose.

Mr. Trump promised to address the opioids problem during last year’s campaign, saying his push to build a border wall with Mexico would help stem the flow of drugs into the U.S. He then selected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a GOP primary rival-turned-ally, to lead a new commission on opioid abuse.

The president caught Congress by surprise in early August, when he said his team was “drawing documents” to exercise his emergency powers against the heroin and prescription painkiller scourge.

The White House recently said it is still conducting a legal review of what that entails, drawing fire from Democrats who say it’s taking too long.

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