Durbin Discusses Legislation to Combat Heroin Epidemic

[HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL] – In an effort to prevent drug tragedies and combat a nationwide surge of lethal drug overdoses, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today met with advocates, law enforcement officials, health professionals, and people recovering from heroin and opioid addiction to discuss ways to combat the problem. Durbin recently co-sponsored bills to expand treatment for heroin addiction and expand access to naloxone - a drug that counters the effects of an opioid overdose - and other drug prevention programs that have been proven to save lives.

“In recent years, Illinois – like the rest of the country – has seen an alarming increase in drug overdose deaths. These deaths affect the young and old, rich and poor— it is a problem that all communities face,” Durbin said. “With heroin and opioid use on the rise, why wouldn’t we do everything we could to give first-responders access to life-saving drugs like naloxone? I will continue to fight to ensure that community groups and first responders on the front lines have the resources they need to prevent more individuals from falling victim to opioid abuse.”

Since 1999, the number of drug overdose deaths in the United States has more than doubled, and in most states the number now exceeds the number of traffic-related deaths. Drug overdose deaths are now the leading cause of preventable injury death, resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths each year, with most involving either prescription opioids or heroin. In Illinois, there were 1,652 overdose deaths in 2014 – an increase of nearly 29% since 2010.


In June, Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act which aims to decrease the rate of drug overdose deaths by improving access to naloxone.  The bill would provide funding to community-based organizations to purchase and distribute naloxone, and carry out overdose prevention activities, such as educating prescribers and pharmacists or training first responders. 


Naloxone has no side effects or potential for abuse, and is widely recognized as an important tool to help prevent drug overdose deaths, but many communities struggle to get naloxone to those on the front lines who need it most. The Centers for Disease Control last week published an analysis showing that between 1996 and 2014, more than 150,000 laypersons at risk of witnessing an overdose were trained in administering naloxone and saved more than 26,000 lives across the country. Thousands of these reversals were in Illinois.


In May, Durbin cosponsored the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act). The bill would not only lift the cap on the number of patients physicians can treat using medication assisted therapies, but it would also enable nurse practitioners and physicians assistants trained in addiction medicine to treat patients with medication assisted therapies.