On July 23rd, 2019, I lost my son Blake to an overdose. To me, Blake will be forever 28 years old. He suffered from depression and substance use disorder (SUD) for 14 years before his last overdose. While my son’s life has been lost, I have kept his memory alive by telling his story and fighting for state and federal legislation that will help thousands of others beat their substance use and live healthy, productive lives.
Not every SUD is the same. When it comes to opioid use, very often it can begin with prescription opioid abuse. These prescriptions frequently include an excessive number of pills that can very easily lead to abuse. They can continue to be abused by whoever the prescription was written for or fall into the hands of someone else, like a child or other loved one.
The Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction In the Nation Act, or No Pain Act, seeks to address opioid SUD and the over-abundance of opioid prescriptions that add fuel to the fire of the opioid crisis. This bipartisan legislation currently in Congress, will give Medicare patients and their health care providers options when it comes to treating their patients’ pain – something that is lacking under current policy. If we decrease the number of opioids prescribed, it follows that the rate of opioid SUD and overdoses will go also down.
Consider this, 6 percent of all surgical patients that receive prescription opioids transition to persistent opioid users, and nearly 80 percent of heroin users start with a prescription opioid, as did my son. The situation has become worse due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as overdoses increased drastically, reaching record highs in March 2020. Overall, according to the CDC, overdoses and overdose deaths have been increasing year over year with no end in sight.
Any number above zero is too many overdoses.
The No Pain Act will not solve all of our problems, but it will be a strong step in the right direction. Studies estimate that a 10 percent reduction in opioid prescriptions can result in 300,000 fewer people developing an opioid SUD each year. If this legislation passes, more people will have the option to access pain treatments that don’t involve opioids, lowering the abundance of opioids out there, and saving potentially thousands from addiction.
The opioid crisis has sadly become personal for me. I would do anything to bring my son back, but I can’t. He suffered from a serious disease that was compounded by his long battle with depression. For the longest time, I was terrified for him and his life. At some point I learned that I could not get in the ring with him and that I had to let him fight the actual fight.
I will do what I can to help others escape the grip of SUD and support the families that have suffered so much. Supporting the No Pain Act is just one way we can reduce substance use disorder caused by the over prescription of opioids. I ask Senators Wyden and Merkley to work to make sure the No Pain Act makes it to President Biden’s desk.