Portman continues push to reduce opioid addiction on Prince’s birthday

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, spoke on the Senate floor Tuesday — the birthday of the late artist Prince — to continue to pushing Congress to pass comprehensive anti-drug legislation that would address the country’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic.

Prince died on April 21, and law enforcement told the Associated Press last week that was due to an opioid overdose. The autopsy report showed that the music icon died of an fentanyl overdose. Fentanyl is an opioid painkiller reported to be 50 times more potent than heroin.

For the eighth week the Senate's been in session, Portman took to the Senate floor pushing for President Obama to sign his Comprehensive Addiction & Recovery Act.

Portman said the House-passed bill does not include an awareness campaign, and inclusion in the final bill is “critical.”

“We think this is incredibly important, including making this connection between prescription drugs, narcotic pain pills and heroin. Four out of five heroin addicts in Ohio started with prescription drugs,” he said. “I believe this is critical that we include it in the final bill that we send to the president’s desk and ultimately out to our communities so that this message can begin to resonate to let people know that they should not be getting into this funnel of addiction that is so difficult.”

Portman discussed the high-profile passing of Prince in his latest Senate floor speech, saying he’s “hopeful that good can come out of tragedy like Prince’s premature death.”

“It can be that we raise awareness about this epidemic and prevent new addictions from starting,” said the Cincinnati Republican. “Prevention is ultimately going to be the best way to turn the tide.”

Since Prince’s passing, Portman said more people in the United States are taking about the issue.

“Fentanyl is driving more of this epidemic every day,” he said. “As I said, in 2013 there were 84 fentanyl overdose deaths in Ohio. The next year it was 503. This year, sadly, it’s going to be more than that. The new information about the overdose that took Prince’s life has surprised some. After all, Prince had it all — success, fame, talent, fortune.

Paul Wax, executive director of the American College of Medical Toxicology, told the Associated Press that, “This epidemic spares no one. It affects the wealthy, the poor, the prominent, the not prominent.”

Portman said it affects a vast range of people, from those who are homeless to the rich and famous, including Actors Chevy Chase and Jamie Lee Curtis.

“Prevention is ultimately going to be the best way to turn the tide,” he said.

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