WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers (KY-05) participated in two congressional hearings on March 7 where he expressed continued concerns about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse and pushed for timely and effective legislative solutions.
Before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, Rogers discussed his perspective on this severe issue as well as the importance of additional congressional engagement in tackling this problem through legislation. Through his role as Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rogers also encouraged U.S. Army Secretary John McHugh to continue efforts which reduce addiction and abuse among our brave war fighters.
“Prescription drug abuse is taking more lives in Kentucky than car crashes, and more lives around the country than heroin and cocaine combined. And tragically, our brave military men and women are coming back from war hooked on these pain pills,” stated Rogers, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse.
“In my region of Southern and Eastern Kentucky, our people have taken a stand that enough is enough; it’s time for our federal government to follow suit,” Rogers continued. “I was proud to first stand by my colleagues in calling for meaningful legislation to stem the rising tide of abuse and allow our communities once again to flourish, and then to get the assurances of my good friend Secretary McHugh that the Army is taking this epidemic seriously to protect our brave war fighters.”
Rogers and three other members of the Congressional Caucus on Prescription Drug Abuse testified before the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security at a hearing entitled “The Prescription Drug Epidemic in America.”
While prescription drug abuse has presented a challenge in Southern and Eastern Kentucky for years, it is now our nation’s fastest growing drug threat. In 2010, 254 million prescriptions for opioids were filled in the U.S., which is enough painkillers to medicate every American adult around the clock for a month.
Rogers encouraged his colleagues on the subcommittee to address a number of legislative proposals which have been put forth by members of the Prescription Drug Abuse Caucus, including forthcoming legislation to facilitate the secure exchange of prescription information among state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP).
For years, Rogers has been a strong advocate for the establishment of PDMPs in every state, which monitor the sale and purchases of controlled substances, bridging the gap between legitimate medical need and potential misuse. In recent months, he has pushed for technology solutions that will combat interstate doctor shopping and shut down the pill pipeline across state borders.
Later in the day, Rogers engaged the Secretary of the Army John McHugh on prescription drug abuse by our war fighters.
Studies indicate that 21 percent of soldiers involved in illegal drug use in 2011 were abusing prescription drugs, and tragically, between 2009 and 2011, 142 soldiers lost their lives to prescription drug abuse.
Rogers has repeatedly encouraged the Department of Defense (DOD) to address this escalating crisis of addiction and abuse, and in February 2012, the DOD announced plans to expand existing drug testing programs to include the unauthorized use of the prescription drugs hydrocodone and benzodiazepines.
In addition, Rogers authored language included in the FY12 Appropriations bill that will allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to participate in state-run prescription drug monitoring programs. President Obama signed this bill into law last December.