ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4)– The pictures of an Ohio couple overdosing in their car with a toddler in the back seat has brought a drug abuse problem to the forefront. The images went viral, jarring people about the opioid abuse problem that is an epidemic in the United States.
That’s why Congresswoman Diane DeGette, a Democrat representing Colorado, wants money to fight the problem in Colorado.
“Washington has been talking about this issue for a longtime and frankly not enough has been done,” said DeGette.
DeGette is asking Congress to pass two bills she has co-sponsored about heroin and prescription drug abuse.
One bill would promise $500 million to fight the crisis.
Dr. Beth Cookson runs the Stout Street Clinic in Denver and sees the problem firsthand.
“The challenge is getting people into treatment and getting them to a place able to say, its try to save my life,” said Cookson.
DeGette says treatment for opioids is complex.
“You can’t just put them in cold turkey situation and expect them to succeed,” she says. “Most are going to need intensive therapy; many need the medically assisted treatment.”
Legislators say the DEA has made heroin the main focus in Colorado because the opioid problem is so pervasive. Forty-one people die from prescription abuse every month in Colorado. That’s twice the amount dying from traffic-related deaths.
The Centers for Disease and Control says every 19 minutes an American dies from an opioid overdose. Colorado is second-worst among the states for prescription misuse.
Opioid abuse can change the chemistry of the brain, which also makes the treatment complex. Legislators say the only way to fight it is with dollars to fund prevention, public education and treatment.