The White House

Office of the National Drug Control Policy

Readout of White House Drug Policy Advisor Meeting with Administration Officials to Discuss Heroin Threat and Administration Response

(Washington, D.C.) – On Thursday June 28th, Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), convened top officials from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Defense (DOD) to discuss the latest data regarding heroin trends in the United States and the Administration response.

While heroin data indicators are mixed, there has been an increase in anecdotal reporting regarding increases in heroin use. In response, Director Kerlikowske has asked Federal public health and safety officials to increase data sharing, identify trends in substitution between prescription painkiller abuse and heroin use, and coordinate a timely and evidenced-based response to any emerging trends in the abuse of opioids.

“The public health and safety threat that opioids like heroin and prescription painkillers pose to our Nation is devastating,” said Director Kerlikowske. “These are drugs that generate addiction, violent crime, economic distress, and misery for too many American families and communities. While heroin use is still far less common than prescription drug abuse, we must ensure that the Federal Government - in close coordination with state and local authorities - responds effectively and in a balanced way to any emerging trends. To reduce the threat, we must prevent drug abuse before it begins, treat those who are suffering from substance use disorders, and ensure law enforcement officer have the tools it needs to protect public safety.”

In addition to monitoring trends in the prevalence of heroin use, Federal officials continue to monitor trends in substitution taking place between prescription painkillers (opioid analgesics) and heroin. According to new data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 81% of people initiating heroin use between 2008 and 2010 had previously abused prescription drugs. Still, heroin use pales in comparison to prescription drug abuse, with 621,000 past-year heroin users compared to 12.2 million past-year non-medical users of prescription drugs.

To address the problem of opioid abuse, the Administration has released Epidemic: Responding to America's Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis. A national framework for reducing prescription drug diversion and abuse, the plan supports the expansion of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs, more convenient and environmentally responsible disposal methods to remove unused medications from the home, education for patients and healthcare providers, and reducing the prevalence of pill mills and doctor shopping through enforcement efforts.

For more information visit www.WhiteHouse.gov/ONDCP

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