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September 19, 2023

Trone: By investing in non-opioid pain relief, we can reduce substance use disorder | READER COMMENTARY

Credit: Baltimore Sun

Like Jennie Burke, I know what it feels like to lose a family member to substance use disorder (”With federal NOPAIN Act, Maryland doctors, advocates hope fewer opioids will be prescribed,” Sept. 11). I lost my 24-year-old nephew, Ian, to a fentanyl overdose in 2016 after working with him for over five years on his treatment. Recovery is a demanding journey, and I saw his struggles, successes and rock bottoms. Taking opioids, in any situation, will always come with risks. A person is in danger of developing a dependance after just three days of taking a prescribed opioid pain reliever. That’s why I cosponsored the NOPAIN Act to encourage non-opioid pain relief.

Alternative methods like nerve blockers are less addictive and still able to effectively treat pain. With the opioid epidemic worsening year after year, it’s of vital importance that we invest in safer, equally effective ways to treat patients. And while non-opioid relief options are vital to combating this crisis, we must address this epidemic from every angle.

As the co-founder and co-chair of the 140-member Bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Task Force in Congress, I’m committed to reducing the overabundance of opioids on the market. In addition to the NOPAIN Act, I introduced the EFFECTIVE Act to grant the U.S. Food and Drug Administration the authority to deny an opioid drug application if it is not clinically superior to other commercially available drugs. We must set higher standards for highly-addictive opioids to be readily available and accessible to our loved ones.

As a parent, the fact that Jennie’s 13-year-old daughter was given 44 oxycodone tablets after surgery when Tylenol and Ibuprofen were just as successful in alleviating discomfort is common, yet terrifying. Over 70,000 Americans died of an opioid-related overdose last year — over 2,500 of whom were Marylanders — and if medical professionals continue to prescribe opioids as standard practice, that number won’t go down any time soon. No one is immune to substance use disorder, but we can take steps to prevent people from losing their lives to this disease. This month is National Recovery Month and I’m working to get these bills over the finish line. As long as I’m in Congress, you can always count on me to fight for families like Jennie’s.

— David Trone, Potomac