Senator has introduced legislation to expand treatment, help combat prescription drug and heroin crisis; Calls on HHS, DOJ and Surgeon General to act


WASHINGTON (October 14, 2014) – As evidence mounts that the heroin and prescription drug crisis is accelerating in Massachusetts and across America, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today released a new report and comprehensive plan to address the opioid epidemic. The plan outlines the broad range of actions – prevention, treatment and enforcement – that must work in unison to address the crisis. The plan also provides a series of policy recommendations for federal agencies, Congress and the Obama administration to act upon to address current legal, regulatory, and budgetary constraints and develop solutions to the crisis.  

It is estimated that approximately 65,000 people living in Massachusetts are dependent on opioids, of which 50,000 need treatment, but aren't currently receiving it. A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that deaths from heroin overdoses increased three-fold in sampled northeast states, which included Massachusetts, between 2010 and 2012.

Senator Markey also today sent letters to the heads of the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services urging them to take action to enact the policy recommendations included in the report. Senator Markey additionally asked the Surgeon General to issue a report on the state of prescription drug addiction in the United States, especially focused on opioids.


The full report, titled “Overdosed: A Comprehensive Federal Strategy for Addressing America’s Prescription Drug and Heroin Epidemic” is available HERE.


“Over the last year, especially in my home state of Massachusetts, I have seen how this crisis is killing our neighbors, shattering families, and straining our society to handle the addiction epidemic. Heroin and prescription drug addiction and overdoses often leave people and their families devastated and without hope. We need to create a national, comprehensive plan to prevent more addictions, treat those who are addicted, and aid those who are trying to help addicts through the courts or treatment facilities,” said Senator Markey. “Just as every addict needs support and a strategy for overcoming addiction, our country needs an action plan to attack the scourge of opioid and prescription drug abuse that is ravaging our communities.”


The Markey report includes three main categories for federal action to address the crisis, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. A summary of the policy prescriptions is included below, and a full list of federal policy recommendations found in Senator Markey’s plan can be found in Appendix A of the report.



--Increase education and awareness among patients, health care providers and the general public;

--Research and develop new pain treatments and tamper-proof medications;

--Track and monitor opioid prescriptions;

--Clarify pain management expectations for providers and patients;

--Encourage proper disposal of unused/excess prescription opioids.



--Improve access to opioid dependence treatment;

--Increase evidence based treatment in areas of need;

--Increase capacity and willingness of health providers to serve more patients with addiction;

--Reduce health insurance coverage barriers to treatment and intervention in all treatment settings;

--Improve care for vulnerable populations-pregnant women and youth;

--Reduce deaths associated with opioid overdoses.



--Strengthen drug courts;

--Improve drug treatment in state and federal jails and prisons;

--Ensure medical coverage upon re-entry.


This year, Senator Markey convened roundtables in Boston, Taunton and Holyoke, Massachusetts to develop this comprehensive strategy to address the opiate addiction and overdose epidemic.


In July, Senator Markey introduced the Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment Act (TREAT Act, S. 2645) to expand the ability of trained medical professionals to provide life-saving medication-assisted therapies such as buprenorphine (also called Suboxone) for patients suffering from heroin and prescription drug addiction. The bill is cosponsored by lawmakers from regions across the country impacted by the crisis including Senators Richard Durbin (D-Ill), Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), John D. Rockefeller (D-W.V.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Maize Hirono (D-Hawaii). 


He also has introduced the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act (S. 2092), legislation that would protect individuals who administer lifesaving opioid overdose prevention drugs from legal liability. The bill is cosponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Tim Kaine (D-V.A.), and John D. Rockefeller (D-W.V.). 


Senator Markey has called on the Food and Drug Administration to engage researchers, addiction treatment leaders, and drug developers to develop and approve new therapies that will reduce drug use as well as reduce the harms associated with it. He has urged the leaders of federal agencies to support community naloxone distribution programs and expand access to addiction treatment and recovery services.