May 25, 2016

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin Wants Opioid Tax for Treatment Programs | Wheeling Intelligencer

WHEELING - Sen. Joe Manchin introduced legislation Tuesday that would impose a 1-cent tax on each milligram of active opioid ingredient sold as prescription pain medication, as he believes this would generate up to $2 billion annually to combat substance abuse.

Manchin joined several Senate colleagues to introduce the Budgeting for Opioid Addiction Treatment Act, which supporters are referring to as the "LifeBOAT Act." The legislation endeavors to curb abuse of opioids - including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine and codeine - by expanding access to treatment.

Manchin said 42,000 West Virginians, including 4,000 youths, sought treatment for some form of drug addiction in 2014 but didn't receive it. The state has the highest death rate per capita from legal prescription drug abuse.

"I'm not talking about a tax," Manchin, D-W.Va., said while talking to reporters Tuesday. "I'm talking about a solution."

Those joining Manchin for the announcement included Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.; and Angus King, I-Maine.

"Well, basically, if you don't think that this is an illness that needs treatment, you're going to probably disagree with us," Manchin said. "If you've come to the fact and realization that it is an illness, and it's going to have treatments, then you have to have treatment centers."

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioids reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain, while affecting areas of the brain controlling emotion to diminish pain stimuli.

Although they are useful in combating intense pain, opioids can also be highly addictive. Withdrawal symptoms for those hooked on opioids can include restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, cold flashes and involuntary leg movements, the institute states.

Manchin said more than $1 trillion has been spent nationally in the war on drugs, an estimated $450 billion of which was utilized to jail drug offenders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that $72 billion is spent annually in medical costs to treat prescription drug abuse.

Manchin said that an estimated $99 million was spent in West Virginia in 2014 related to opioid abuse.

"A tremendous, horrendous cost for this," Manchin said.

Manchin said with treatment, he hopes addicted West Virginians who want to work will find their way back to stable employment.

"We've got to find a way to get them back into the mainstream," he said.

However, West Virginia is clearly not alone in its opioid abuse dilemma, as evidenced by senators joining Manchin Tuesday.

"The nationwide opioid addiction epidemic has ravaged communities and families throughout our country and throughout New Hampshire," Shaheen added. "Congress needs to act now and invest in treatment, rehabilitation and recovery so we can get help to those who seek it sooner, not later."

Baldwin said fighting the nationwide drug epidemic is a "shared responsibility" of all Americans.

"The drug companies that have profited from selling large quantities of opioids over the years are no exception," she said.

By:  Alec Berry & Casey Junkins