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Congressional Hearing Spotlights Growing Problems of Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse

May 08, 2014

On April 29, the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled "Examining the Growing Problems of Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse." Witnesses included representative from Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Office of National Drug Control Policy, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The hearing focused on the surge in opioid use and the federal government's activities in working with the states to address abuse and deaths resulting from overdose. The hearing delved into a number of additional issues, including the use of naloxone used to prevent opioid overdose deaths, the value of abuse-deterrent formulations, and the potential abuse of the recently approved hydrocodone-only painkiller Zohydro. Related witness testimonies are now available here. Of note, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that naloxone was used to reverse more than 10,000 overdose cases between 1996 and 2010 (link to report). The Agency also testified that it supports the new hand-held auto-injector designed for family members and caregivers.

In related news, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) recently sent a letter to state agencies that administer the Substance Abuse and Prevention Block Grants (SABG) to clarify that, at a State's discretion, SABG funds (other than primary prevention set-aside funds) may be utilized to purchase naloxone (Narcan®) and the necessary materials to assemble overdose kits and to cover the costs associated with the dissemination of such kits.