In the 1990’s the average price of a pack of cigarettes in the United States was just over $1.50. If you happened to be a smoker today, you know all too well that the price has risen exponentially, with an average cost ranging between six and eight dollars. In the state of New York, individuals can pay more than $12.00, the direct result of both state and federal taxes. Heightened cigarette prices have a two-fold effect, they are meant to deter smoking and fund youth smoking prevention campaigns.
Every American adult, at least, is aware that cigarettes are unhealthy and can lead to several different forms of cancer. With that in mind, efforts meant to prevent youth smoking are of the utmost importance, as they are the most vulnerable demographic. Over the last couple decades youth cigarette smoking rates have declined dramatically and the trend continues; it would stand to reason that this decline is the direct result of the efforts of both health organizations by way of tobacco prevention campaigns which are partly funded by the high taxes imposed on “cancer sticks.”
While both tobacco and alcohol still rank high on the list of leading causes of preventable death in the U.S., holding the number 1 and 3 positions respectively, prescription opioid and heroin abuse have been stealing lives at a staggering rate. In fact, accidental drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury-related death for Americans between the ages of 35-54—and the second leading cause for young people, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. With nearly 44,000 people dying from a drug overdose each year, it is crystal clear that the situation is dire; this has prompted lawmakers from every corner of the government to call for action, via opioid prevention and access to addiction treatment services.
Over the last few months legislation was passed in order to make the aforementioned goals a reality, but many argue that despite everyone’s good intentions it will prove difficult to fund the varied programs that rest under the umbrella of the new bills, such as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).
Practically everyone is in agreement, curbing the over prescribing of opioid painkillers is vital in the effort to prevent future cases of opioid addiction from ensuing, but such campaigns do little to help those who are already addicted to opioids. In 2014, an estimated 1.9 million Americans of the 21.5 million that had a substance use disorder in the United States were addicted to prescription opioids, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports. In the same year there were an estimated 586,000 who had a substance use disorder involving heroin.
Research tells that the majority of today’s heroin users began with prescription opioids, such as OxyContin (oxycodone). Making it more difficult to acquire opioid analgesics doesn’t mean that one’s addiction will just disappear; without treatment and recovery services the cycle of addiction will continue—forcing addicts to seek other avenues to “get well”—i.e. Heroin.
A number of states, mainly those who have been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic, have found it difficult to provide and expand access to addiction treatment services. The issue stems mostly from a lack of funding. If opioid addicts cannot find help, or have to wait incredibly long periods of time between making the decision to go to treatment and actually getting a bed, they are still susceptible to overdose—potentially a fatal one at that. A new bill has been put forward that may be able to generate the desperately needed funds.
A group of U.S. Senators have introduced the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act (LifeBOAT). The LifeBOAT Act would establish a permanent funding stream to support efforts to expand access to addiction treatment services, according to a news release from Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV). The new bill, if passed, would generate funds by imposing a 1 cent fee on each milligram of active opioid ingredient in a prescription opioid painkiller.
I’ve heard it time and time again from people waging the battle against addiction: we need more treatment options. But today, those options are only dwindling in the face of ever-shrinking budgets, and the sad result is that those who need the help the most simply aren’t getting it,” said Angus King (I-ME). “It’s my hope that this common-sense legislation can help put a stop to that. By establishing a reliable stream of funding, this bill will bolster treatment facilities across the country, increase the amount of services available, and support people as they fight back against addiction – all while doing so in a cost-effective way. We must step up to lend a hand to those who need our help, and this bill does that.”
The opioid milligram tax would fund:
- New addiction treatment centers, both residential and outpatient.
- Expanded access to long-term, residential treatment programs.
- Recruiting and increasing reimbursement for certified mental health providers providing substance abuse treatment.
- The establishment of and/or operating support programs that offer employment services, housing, and other support services to help recovering addicts reintegrate into society.
- The establishment of and/or operating substance abuse treatment programs in conjunction with Adult and Family Treatment Drug Courts.
- The establishment of and/or operating facilities to provide care for babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.
To read the text of the bill, click here.
At PACE Recovery Center, our mission is to provide our clients with a safe and supportive environment to help them overcome the challenges they have experienced due to alcohol and drug abuse. We believe that incorporating sound clinical interventions and a lifestyle that encourages health and wellness, in a shame free setting that encourages accountability and responsibility, will help foster long term recovery.