Neil

White House Drug Czar to appear on Issues & Answers

By: Neil Middleton
By: Neil Middleton

White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske will be my guest on Issues & Answers: The Mountain Edition Monday, February 28. What would you like to ask our nation’s Drug Czar? You can submit your questions now.

White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske will be my guest on Issues & Answers: The Mountain Edition Monday, February 28. 

What would you like to ask our nation’s Drug Czar?  You can submit your questions now.  Just leave a comment on this blog or send an email to neil.middleton@wymtnews.com


I’ll use some of your questions during the interview. 

We will tape the segment next Wednesday following a “Rising Above” celebration dinner with 5th District Congressman Hal Rogers.  The event will also include a round table discussion on the prescription drug abuse problem with Operation UNITE and community members.

 

Kerlikowske’s visit is part of a weeklong tour through Kentucky and West Virginia.  The tour will include meetings with recovering addicts, law enforcement, drug treatment staffers, business leaders and elected officials.

 

     

Kerlikowske called Kentucky the "epicenter" of the nation's prescription drug problems, saying, "it's heartbreaking what's going on there."

 

"It's not just the deaths, but it's also the devastation to families - people using what little money they can oftentimes scrape together to buy these pills."

 

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(AP) - President Barack Obama's chief adviser on drug issues said Monday that prescription pill abuse is taking a "heartbreaking" toll in Kentucky where scores of people are dying from overdoses each month.

 

     

White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske told The Associated Press he will tour Kentucky next week to survey the state's problems with the kinds of drugs that often can be found in the family medicine cabinet.

 

     

"It's heartbreaking what's going on there," Kerlikowske said. "It's not just the deaths, but it's also the devastation to families - people using what little money they can oftentimes scrape together to buy these pills."

 

     

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell invited Kerlikowske to Kentucky for what is expected to be a four-day tour that will include meetings with law enforcement authorities, recovering addicts, drug treatment staffers, business leaders and elected officials in a region where more people die from overdose deaths than car crashes.

 

     

"We're losing an astonishingly high 82 Kentuckians a month to drug overdoses," McConnell said Monday. "We have a problem in all 120 counties ... and I'm really happy that the director, who could be going to a lot of places, is going to come to Kentucky and spend a number of days there immersing himself in our problems."

 

     

McConnell said Kentucky has also seen increased meth production and continues to be one of the top cultivators of marijuana in the nation. "So, we've got it all," he said.

 

     

Kerlikowske said his visit will focus largely on prescription pill abuse.

 

     

"Kentucky, along with West Virginia and Tennessee, has been kind of the epicenter of the problem," he said.

 

     

Kentucky's prescription pill woes skyrocketed in 2000 when addicts discovered the powerful painkiller OxyContin. Police blamed the drug for hundreds of deaths, and a federal judge in 2007 ordered Purdue Pharma L.P., the maker of OxyContin, and three of its executives to pay a $634.5 million fine for misleading the public about the drug's risk of addiction.

 

     

The dangers of Oxycontin and similar painkillers were clear in Appalachian states where the drug was dubbed "Heroin of the Hills." But Kerlikowske said prescription abuse typically draws national headlines only when it involves the rich and famous.

 

     

Kerlikowske pointed to the highly publicized death of 27-year-old model Adrienne Martin, who was found in the home of Anheuser-Busch heir August Busch IV in December. An autopsy found that Martin died from an overdose of the prescription painkiller

oxycodone. While her death was huge news, Kerlikowske said most other drug fatalities went unnoticed.

 

     

"Bringing attention to how it can be devastating not just among stars or in wealthy communities, but how it can be devastating in pretty tough areas of the country is important," Kerlikowske said.

 

     

"If we educate kids about the dangers of pills ... , if we clean out medicine cabinets in a safe way, if we get physicians more information about how to recognize addiction and how to deal with this, and then we can crack down on doctor shopping and physicians who are over-prescribing, we have huge potential to really begin to bring this under control," he said.

 

     

Kerlikowske said getting more money and manpower to deal with problem could be tough in the current budget climate.

 

     

"We're going to have to figure out smart ways to deal with this," he said.

 

     

McConnell said it's important that Kerlikowske and the White House Office of Drug Control Policy know the scope of Kentucky's drug issues in deciding where to concentrate existing resources.

 

     

"I'm assuming he will try to target the effort where the problem is the greatest," McConnell said. "What I want to try to do is get his attention directed toward Kentucky, and I think that the fact that he's willing to come down there for a number of days is an indication that they realize that we have this difficulty in all these areas."

 

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Do you have an opinion you want to share?  Let me know your thoughts.  You can comment on this blog or send me your “Letter to the Editor”. 

Here’s is the policy:

Email your letters to neil.middleton@wymtnews.com

 

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I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for making WYMT-TV your source for news and information.  We appreciate your trust.

God Bless America!
 
Neil Middleton <><
WYMT Mountain News
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