ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is urging the U.S. Senate to help her combat the opioid epidemic. She’s asking senators to pass her legislation that would require the CDC to issue guidelines for the safe prescribing of opioids for the treatment of acute pain.
Right now guidelines are only in place for treating chronic pain. Gillibrand argues that many people become addicted to opioids while being treated for acute pain like a broken bone or surgery. During her speech she talked about a local man from Averill Park, Sean Murdick who lost his life last year after getting addicted to these drugs. He turned to heroin after his prescription ran out.
Now you may notice something new at your local pharmacy: Narcan nasal spray. Narcan helps reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. Pharmacists will be ready to train people on how to administor the drug.
If you can’t afford Narcan at the pharmacy, a group called “Project Safe Point” gives it away for free to anyone who attends a training session on how to use it.
Senator Gillibrand’s remarks on as prepared for delivery are copied below:
“Mr. President, I rise to speak in favor of Amendment Number 3354.
“I’ve filed this amendment with my colleague from West Virginia, Senator Capito, who has been a leader in our fight against opioid addiction.
“The opioid addiction problem in our country is severe, it is growing, and it’s not going to end unless Congress comes together to pass a law that targets the root causes of this epidemic.
“The stakes are too high to ignore.
“Last year alone, in communities all across the country, including many in New York, 1,400,000 more Americans started abusing opioids.
“And every day, 44 more people are killed by an overdose.
“We’ve seen enough data to know that our opioid addiction problem is spiraling out of control.
“Opioid addiction is destroying too many lives in our cities, too many families in our rural communities, and too many young men and women in our suburbs.
“Madame President, I want to tell you the story of one of my constituents. His name is Sean Murdick.
“Sean was a really special and gifted young man. He was co-captain of his high school football team, and had that rare ability to bring people together and to connect with anyone. Sean didn’t care if you were on the football team or if you had a disability- he was always the first one there to help you when you needed it.
“After high school Sean loved working with his hands so he got a good job as a construction worker. One day, Sean broke his arm. Sean’s doctor gave him a prescription for oxycodone, a powerful opioid, to mask his pain. But by the time this prescription ran out, Sean was already addicted, and he couldn’t shake the addiction no matter how hard he tried.
“He started using heroin, tried to quit many times, but the system failed. The system failed him nearly every step of the way, and last fall, Sean overdosed and died.
“I’d like to tell you Sean’s story from the perspective of his parents. My hometown paper, the Times-Union, did an incredible story about his life. I can imagine the pain they suffer, because I have two young sons. For the Murdick’s, they had many questions, but very few answers, and they’ve been lost in a fog of grief since their son’s death two months ago.
“The Times-Union wrote, ‘These parents want to speak out in Sean’s memory to reclaim what heroin stole from them in the hope that it might help other parents struggling with children’s addiction.’
“His father said, ‘Sean did not die in vain. We tried our best to save him, but it wasn’t enough. His mother walked over, embraced her son, and spoke soothing words to Sean’s older brother. The father buried his head in his hands. It was a tableau of sorrow we have seen far too often.’
“When their son spiraled down into addiction, ‘his parents could see that something was wrong.’
‘He’d lost weight, he was distant, fidgety, he nodded off at the dinner table. His father found a syringe in the bathroom and confronted him.’
“Sean said to his Dad, ‘Dad, I’m sick, I need help. This is not me. I don’t want to be like this.’
“The parents told their story to our paper. The paper says, ‘it was a revolving door of failure, detox, intensive outpatient care, relapse. He did not qualify for the most intensive and costliest level of care; inpatient residential treatment.’
‘They denied him because he was not homicidal or suicidal, and had a stable home environment.’
“They said, ‘it was a never-ending battle with insurance companies. They treated him like the scum of the Earth.’
“Now imagine being a parent and going with your son, into treatment center and treatment center. When Sean finally died he was in the best care- he was in a treatment center.
“When he called his mother he said, ‘Mom, my steak’s ready, I gotta go, I love you very much.’
“And he went into the bathroom and he overdosed.
‘Sean did leave his parents with final solace. Not long before he died, he thanked them for their unconditional love and how they supported him through a long road of misery.’
“He said to them, ‘you did everything right.’
“Now I don’t know how a parent can hear those words and think they did everything right. But I can tell you as a Senator that the U.S. Congress is not doing everything right.
“Too many parents are telling me stories about their children who have died, and for too many patients, they’re being prescribed opioids like Percocet and Vicodin and OxyContin for acute pain. They get prescribed this medication for getting a wisdom tooth out, for a broken wrist- a medicine that they really only need for two or three days.
“But why in heaven’s name are they sent home with a dose of thirty oxycodone pills?
“What happens to those pills?
“Are they given to kids at a party?
“Are they sold to addicts?
“So we know there is a huge issue with how prescriptions are being made, with how much medicine is being given patients for this acute care.
“And right now there are no guidelines, no guidelines given to doctors.
“So I have a bill to create that guideline.
“We need a guideline for the CDC.
“Our amendment is very simple. It would require the CDC to issue clear guidelines to our medical community for when it’s appropriate to prescribe opiates instead of something non-addictive like Extra Strength Tylenol.
“Our amendment simply requires the CDC to issue these clear guidelines for how much opioid medication our medical professionals can prescribe without putting a patient at high risk for addiction. These guidelines are already being done for chronic pain, so they should do them also for acute pain.
“We need to do something here.
“As members of Congress we need to respond to the suffering of so many of our constituents.
“It is truly an epidemic, and it needs a response.
“Thank you Madame President.
“I yield the floor.”