WH Sends Message, 'Addiction Is Like Any Other Disease'

By Susan Jones | May 16, 2016 | 8:09am EDT
President Obama and Seattle hip-hop artist Macklemore discussed the opioid addiction epidemic in America during the president’s weekly address. (WhiteHouse.gov)

(CNSNews.com) - "President Obama and I just had a powerful conversation here at the White House about opioid abuse and what we can do about it," American rapper Macklemore told President Obama's Saturday radio audience.

Speaking alongside the president, Macklemore said that he once abused prescription drugs and battled addiction.

"Addiction is like any other disease...It can happen to any of us," the rapper said. "When you're going through it, it's hard to imagine there could be anything worse than addiction. But shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help they need.

"Addiction isn't a personal choice or a personal failing. And sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better -- it takes a strong community and accessible resources."

President Obama also called addiction a "disease," noting that deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000 (to 29,000 in 2014).

"A lot of the time, they're from legal drugs prescribed by a doctor," Obama said. "So addiction doesn't always start in some dark alley - it often starts in a medicine cabinet. In fact, a new study released this month found that 44 percent of Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription pain killers," Obama said.

"That's why just talking about this crisis isn't enough," the president continued. "We need to get treatment to more people who need it. My administration is working with communities to reduce overdose deaths, including with medication. We're working with law enforcement to help people get into treatment instead of jail. And under Obamacare, health plans in the Marketplace have to include coverage for treatment."

The House passed 18 bills last week, setting up federal grants and taking other steps to fight, treat and prevent opioid addiction.

But President Obama is not satisfied: "This week, the House passed several bills about opioids. But unless they also make actual investments in more treatment, it won't get Americans the help they need," Obama said.

Macklemore said he's living proof that recovery works -- "and we need our leaders in Washington (to) fund it and people know how to find it," he said.

"The good news is, there's hope," Obama said. "When we talk about opioid abuse as the public health problem it is, more people will seek the help they need. More people will find the strength to recover, just like Macklemore and millions of Americans have. We'll see fewer preventable deaths and fewer broken families."

The words "border," "Mexico," and "drug dealers" were not mentioned in the Saturday radio address.

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