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Politics

Neal Dunn Introduces Bill to Fight Veteran Opioid Abuse

September 26, 2017 - 3:15pm
Neal Dunn
Neal Dunn

A Florida congressman is taking a step towards helping American veterans fight back against opioid abuse.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., introduced the Veterans Opioid Abuse Prevention Act to combat a growing issue for some of the country’s most heroic citizens. 

Opioids have become an unprecedented problem in America, but one group in particular -- veterans, many home from war -- are significantly more susceptible to falling victim to the deadly opioid epidemic.

Dunn’s bill would direct the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin to connect VA doctors and health care providers to a national network of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) which track prescribing data for patients prescribed drugs like oxycodone, morphine and hydrocodone to relieve pain.

The PDMPs identify and alert of abuse patterns in patients, a key step to stopping widespread abuse of the drugs, which are dangerous in part because of their highly addictive properties. 

VA doctors consult the state-based PDMPs before prescribing opioids to veterans, some of whom have suffered injuries while fighting wars overseas. 

VA doctors currently don’t have the ability to consult a national network of state-based PDMPs, which means patients could potentially hop from state to state filling prescriptions without being detected.

Part of the PDMPs’ shortcomings, according to President Donald Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, is the lack of cross-state interoperability. The Commission recommended “enhancing” interstate data sharing among PDMPs to help identify at-risk patients and lessen the potential for drug abuse.

Dunn, a doctor, Army veteran and a member of the House VA Committee, called the ongoing crisis “unacceptable.”
 
“More than 140 people in the U.S. die from opioid abuse each day, and veterans are twice as likely than civilians,” said Dr. Dunn. “This bill instructs the VA to do what more and more private doctors are doing – connect to the national drug monitoring databases so no one slips through the cracks.”

Opioid abuse has made headlines in recent months due to a skyrocketing number of overdoses nationwide.

According to CDC estimates, the amount of prescription opioids sold in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled since 1999, yet there has not been an overall change in the amount of pain that Americans report. Deaths from prescription opioids—drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone—have more than quadrupled in that time.
 
Ninety-one people die each day from overdosing on opioids like oxycodone and heroin.

“We cannot stand silent and watch prescription opioid abuse destroy the lives of those who fought for our freedoms,” Dunn said.

The legislation currently has four cosponsors: U.S. Reps. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, and Paul Tonko, D-N.Y.

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.

Comments

I don't see how this bill does anything except incarcerate more veterans and potentially doctor's. If you really want to help, try more treatment programs. And if you really want it to go away, ensure big pharma are working on producing more effective pain meds that won't lead to dependency when long term control is necessary. Lastly, legalize marijuana. It's less harmful than cigarettes and offers health benefits including pain and anxiety control. Why does our government have such an issue with it's citizens feeling good anyway? What's your problem??

I don't see how this bill does anything except incarcerate more veterans and potentially doctor's. If you really want to help, try more treatment programs. And if you really want it to go away, ensure big pharma are working on producing more effective pain meds that won't lead to dependency when long term control is necessary. Lastly, legalize marijuana. It's less harmful than cigarettes and offers health benefits including pain and anxiety control. Why does our government have such an issue with it's citizens feeling good anyway? What's your problem??

Dr. Dunn is not only an excellent representative for our District but he is also a medical doctor and was briefly assigned to the VA while he was on active duty. He comes with a perspective most don't have.

Certainly, this is a step in the right direction. What it DOES NOT (and CANNOT) control ILLEGAL opioids... Heroin. Nonetheless, it most likely will help with prescription opioid drug control. Many years ago, I helped an addicted friend continually attend frequent sessions with other "Junkies". Combine proven "AA" meeting concepts and decreasing drug dependence slowly (slow withdrawal) did it for her! She is a still a clean, contributing member of society still!

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