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    Obama Seeks to Expand Opioid Addiction Treatment

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    WebMD Health News

    March 29, 2016 -- President Barack Obama traveled to Atlanta on Tuesday to shine a light on the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, which continues to get worse.

    More than 28,000 Americans accidentally overdosed on opioids in 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. About half of those were prescription painkiller overdoses, officials said at the summit.

    “When you look at the staggering statistics in terms of lives lost, productivity impacted, cost to communities, costs to families, it has to be something that has to be right up there at the top of our radar screen,” Obama told a town hall meeting at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit.

    More people now die of narcotic drug overdoses than die in car accidents each year, Obama said.

    Roughly 8 million Americans over the age of 12 need treatment for illicit drug use, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    Meanwhile, 4 out of 5 addicts, 80%, can’t get treatment, even if they want it. That’s because there aren’t enough doctors who know how to treat substance abuse. The treatment programs that do exist have long waiting lists, according to speakers at the summit.

    Along with the president’s appearance Tuesday, the White House announced a package of initiatives aimed at turning the tide on opioid addiction in the U.S.

    Those included a new proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that would raise the cap on the number of patients doctors can treat with buprenorphine, a controlled substance that helps wean addicts off the more potent drugs they’re abusing. That will allow more people to get this medication, which has been shown to help people recover from addiction.

    There’s also more money -- $94 million -- coming for community health centers, and $11 million in new grants for communities that want to expand medication-assisted treatment programs.

    That’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the $1.1 billion Obama has proposed “to help every American with an opioid-use disorder who wants treatment get the help they need,” according to a White House press release. Congress still has to approve that money.

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