Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Legislation to Combat Opioid & Heroin Abuse

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Prior to Senate Judiciary Committee approval of legislation to combat opioid and heroin abuse, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) called for a committed, comprehensive response to the growing epidemic:


“The industry has to step up and accept their share of the responsibility here. Drug companies have to step up. Doctors have to step up. Pharmacies have to step up. And Congress has to step up. And if we are going to deal with this issue – as we should – then it is about more than speeches and about more than well-intentioned authorizations. I say to my colleagues: put your money where your heart is. If this is a problem in your state, be prepared to vote for the resources to get this job done.”


Video of Durbin speaking before today’s Committee vote is available here.


The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act provides for a community-based response to heroin and opioid addiction that that involves law enforcement, the criminal justice system, the public health system and the recovery support community. The legislation – which was passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and which Senator Durbin is cosponsoring – may be taken up on the Senate Floor in the coming weeks. Among other initiatives, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act would authorize grants to states to:


  • Provide training for first responders for naloxone use. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose from opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, if it is administered in a timely way. Naloxone has no side effects or potential for abuse, and is widely recognized as an important tool to help prevent drug overdose deaths. However, many communities, especially in rural areas, struggle to get naloxone to those on the front lines who need it most. Durbin has been outspoken in his efforts expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives. Durbin introduced the Overdose Prevention Act, which would expand access to naloxone, as well as drug overdose prevention programs that have been proven to save lives.


  • Implement medication-assisted treatment programs. Despite studies showing medication-assisted therapies to be highly effective, there is significant under-treatment due to federal limitations on providers. In 2012, of the 2.5 million Americans who abused or were dependent on opioids, fewer than one million received medication-assisted therapy. 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.



  • Expand programs to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs. Earlier this week, Durbin praised an announcement by Deerfield-based Walgreens of a new program to install medication disposal kiosks in more than 500 of its locations.


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 percent since 2010.