Fighting against irresponsible drug use in Ohio
July 6, 2011

Day after day, there continue to be stories in newspapers around Ohio about irresponsible drug use in our state. This is a problem that cannot be ignored, and under my watch as House speaker, we will continue to address these problems head-on. Drugs do not only affect the lives of those who use them, but their families and friends as well. Improving the livelihoods of Ohioans has to be our main objective as legislators.

Over the past few years, an opiate epidemic has taken hold of Ohio. Whether it is heroin or prescription pain relievers, the problem must be addressed. Nearly 40 percent of Ohio's accidental overdoses in 2009 were from opiates, with roughly four Ohioans dying from it per day. The addicts will often travel from pharmacy to pharmacy, visiting "pill mills," where they can obtain medications for unlawful, non-medical purposes.

Understanding the grip that this has had on many Ohio communities, we passed a major piece of legislation earlier this year to combat prescription drug abuse in Ohio. House Bill 93 curbs prescribers' ability to dole out excessive quantities of controlled substances and gets tough on pain management clinics by strengthening licensing protocol and law enforcement response. It also creates a statewide drug take-back program and requires specific Medicaid reforms to enhance care coordination and consumer education. In the final version of the state operating budget, we provided $400,000 for the state medical board to implement these changes.

Additionally, the General Assembly recently took action to prevent more deaths and accidents in the final version of House Bill 64. Six synthetic derivatives of cathinone, which is found in bath salts, were added to the list of schedule I controlled hallucinogenic substances. House Bill 64 was first introduced to deal with the problem of "K2," or "spice." This synthetic drug mimics the sensational high that is produced by marijuana and has led to a high prevalence of health incidents in many of Ohio's counties. Its effects include hallucination, elevated blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, seizures and loss of consciousness. This bill treats spice as being similar to marijuana, banning its possession, use and sale.

The Ohio House has an obligation to pass legislation that will make significant differences in attacking the troubling trend of drug use in Ohio. Although we are not proud to have this problem in our state, we can be proud of how proactive this General Assembly has been to directly address the situation. Our pieces of legislation to take care of this state's drug epidemic are positive steps toward healthier and safer lives for all Ohioans.


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