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It’s Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week Starting Sunday

This week is Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, President Barack Obama has declared in an official proclamation. The move is a reaffirmation of his pledge to educate the public and raise awareness on substance abuse and addiction, and to ensure people have access to treatment and recovery.

The president encourages all Americans to observe the week with ceremonies, programs and activities to acknowledge the epidemic and let more people know about it, the Bradenton Herald reports.

“During Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, we pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic,” the proclamation states.

Opioid use disorder, or addiction to prescription opioids or heroin, is a disease that touches too many of our communities — big and small, urban and rural — and devastates families, all while straining the capacity of law enforcement and the health care system.

The declaration underlines an issue that New Hampshire has been facing, particularly since the state has seen a sharp increase in the number of overdoses. Over 400 people died from drug overdoses last year and are expected to reach the same number this 2016.

Fingers have pointed to fentanyl as the likely culprit of this spate of drug overdose incidents. Fentanyl is a painkiller drug similar to morphine but is 50 to 100 times much more potent, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last month, drugs containing fentanyl were discovered being passed under the name of the popular television show Game of Thrones.

New Hampshire’s leaders have admitted that opioids are a big problem in the state, and hope that the president’s announcement will boost treatment and recovery services in order for the epidemic to begin easing up.

In the USA, deaths from drug overdoses – including heroin and painkillers – have increased by as much as four times since 1999, the San Francisco Gate reports. More Americans die from overdoses compared to traffic accidents, the proclamation adds.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the number of drug overdose deaths to be at 28,000 in 2014, the highest on record. A least half of these were caused by prescription medicines.

The awareness week will run from September 18 to 24.

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