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California Floats A Tax On Painkillers To Pay For Heroin Addiction Treatment

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Lawmakers are proposing a special tax on opioid pills, suggesting a one-cent-per-milligram fee on painkillers sold by prescription wholesalers to pharmacies.

Kevin McCarty, a Democratic assemblyman in California, introduced a bill Wednesday that places a surcharge on all opioid sales, with the revenue raised by the state flowing to addiction prevention and rehabilitation programs. Addiction experts blame much of the explosion of heroin use since 2010 on the over-prescribing of pain medications for more than a decade. Roughly 11,500 California residents were admitted to a hospital to treat a heroin or opioid overdose in 2013, reports The Sacramento Bee.

The proposal is a tax, meaning the bill will need support from two-thirds of the state legislature to secure implementation.

“California’s opioid epidemic has cost state taxpayers millions and the lives of too many of our sons and daughters,” McCarty said in a statement Wednesday. “We must do more to help these individuals find hope and sobriety. This plan will provide counties with critical resources needed to curb the deadly cycle of opioid and heroin addiction in California.”

Officials in states throughout the country are attempting to tackle rising overdose deaths from opioids, but solutions are proving difficult. Officials convened for an opioid and heroin abuse summit in Illinois Tuesday to address the abuse epidemic in their state. Heroin overdose deaths spiked by 120 percent between 2014 and 2015 in Illinois and the disturbing trend continues. (RELATED: How One Pain Pill Sparked A Three-Fold Increase In Heroin Deaths)

Their summit also centered on prescription opioids, but aside from stirring community discussion the meeting did not yield specific legislative action the state can take.

Fatal overdoses from heroin quadrupled over the last five years across the U.S., according to a study released Friday by the National Center for Health Statistics. Authors of the study note that in 2010, only eight percent of all fatal drug overdoses stemmed from heroin. Roughly 25 percent of fatal drug overdoses in 2015 were caused by heroin.

A record 33,000 Americans died from opioid related overdoses in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Steve Birr