Popular opinion dictates that drug abuse is contained within city limits, but the truth is that addiction doesn’t discriminate by location, age, sex, race, or any other differentiating factor. Drug abuse touches individuals, families, and communities in every corner of our country. Over the past decade, heroin specifically has been devastating lives and wreaking havoc on our communities. 

Between 2002 and 2013, heroin deaths nearly quadrupled, reaching more than 8,000 people annually by 2013. In that same year, an estimated 517,000 people used heroin; a figure up 150 percent from just six years earlier.

We cannot let this epidemic continue to spread. Addressing this issue head on will not only save lives; it will save significant taxpayer dollars both in our healthcare and our prison systems. 

Key researchers, law enforcement agencies, and addiction treatment providers all agree that the most effective way to approach the challenges of heroin abuse is to pursue a comprehensive response to both heroin and opioid addiction. In order to be successful, the response must include:
• Prevention efforts
• Law enforcement strategies
• A plan to address overdosing
• Expansion of evidence-based treatment options

It’s true that no one piece of legislation will completely solve the addiction crisis we face, however there are certainly ways we can address this problem head on. Last year, I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which would offer a critical first step toward ending this deadly and costly epidemic. This serious piece of bipartisan legislation has also been introduced in the Senate. 

Solutions to this terrible problem will provide a desperately needed lifeline to individuals and families while simultaneously rebuilding communities and saving taxpayer dollars. Confronting heroin addiction is part of my larger efforts to reform our broken criminal justice system, and I’m committed to seeing this through because strong individuals make strong families. Strong families make strong communities, and strong communities make for a stronger, more prosperous America.