Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to fix the opioid crisis. They just can’t agree on how.

Remind me.

The US is reeling from an unprecedented amount of people becoming addicted to, overdosing and dying from opioids. Those are the really addictive drugs like Vicodin (which is legal and prescribed by doctors) or heroin (which isn’t). Over the last few years, the epidemic has gone from bad to worse. It’s hit poor, rural communities — in states like New Hampshire and West Virginia — especially hard. Case in point: In 2016, dozens of people overdosed in just a matter of hours in one city in West Virginia.


How did we get here?

Back in the ‘80s, studies showed that opioids had a pretty low addiction risk. They were wrong. But pharma companies didn’t know that yet, and used this to their advantage. They marketed them, doctors prescribed them, and throughout the years these drugs became the go-to for patients post-surgery or with chronic pain. Now, millions of Americans have become addicted. Last year, President Trump declared the epidemic a “public health emergency.” And earlier this year, Congress passed a budget that put $6 billion towards fighting the opioid crisis.

So who’s to blame?

There’s no single answer. A number of states have sued pharma companies like Purdue Pharma. They say the cos are responsible for deceptive marketing that’s helped fuel the crisis. Some on the right point the finger at Medicaid — the gov program that provides millions of low-income Americans with health insurance. They say that Medicaid expansion gave more people health insurance, meaning more people could get their hands on opioid prescriptions. And more people could sell those prescriptions or give them away.

What does the left say?

We need to help addicts so things don’t get worse. Medicaid has been really helpful for them by funding research and treatment for addicts. So let’s keep helping people who need treatment get treatment, while also targeting pharma companies that have been fueling the crisis.

What does the right say?

Thanks, but no thanks, to Medicaid. Instead, let’s get tough on crime and focus on cracking down on people fueling this crisis — like drug traffickers.

What can my elected rep do?

Your US representative or senator can vote on legislation that would help addicts get treatment, as well as keep doctors in check so they don’t over-prescribe opioids.

Most states have Narcan – an emergency treatment that reverses overdoses – available over-the-counter. Check here to see if it applies to your state. If not, your governor or state rep can work on legislation to make it easier to access.

Your mayor can work with your local police department to make sure officers carry Narcan.


More than 100 people in the US die every day from an opioid overdose. This crisis affects millions of Americans — no matter their race, age, or gender. And it’s time for lawmakers to help fix the problem.

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