Drug abuse is now the leading cause of death for people under 50. Meth is a tremendous challenge in South Dakota, but opioid addiction is spreading to an ever-increasing number of families each year. Nationwide, more than 46 Americans lose their lives because of an opioid addiction every day. It’s an epidemic, and South Dakota is no exception.

Opioids have stolen the lives of hundreds of South Dakotans in recent years. No family, no community is immune to addiction.

With opioids, addiction can start with a simple prescription for pain medication to deal with a headache. But that same medicine intended for healing can be the drug that leads to a life-altering addiction. More than 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription opioid. While some measures have been taken to better monitor prescription drugs, opioid prescriptions in South Dakota have reached all-time highs.

To address the epidemic, training efforts have launched at places like Avera and Sanford to make sure doctors understand when and how to prescribe opioids.

On the federal level, I’ve worked with President Trump on a bipartisan bill to combat the opioid epidemic by confronting the trafficking of deadly opiates, prioritizing addiction prevention, better supporting those in treatment, and taking a data-driven approach for targeting resources for millions of Medicare recipients who lack access to mental health resources. There’s still much to be done in our fight against opioid addiction, but this is a good start.

Additionally, I’m continuing to work on the federal level to make sure we’re doing all we can to keep illegal drugs out of South Dakota. I strongly support legislation, for instance, that cracks down on Mexican drug traffickers and those who help facilitate their illicit activities at the border; this includes my continued vote to fully fund President Trump’s border security agenda. I believe doing this is a step toward cut off drugs at their source.

We have to end this epidemic. If you or someone you care about is abusing substances or medications, please talk to your doctor or contact a treatment center immediately. If you don’t know where to turn, call the free and confidential National Treatment Referral Routing Service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

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