LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT/KARK) - It will take the work of state and federal officials to battle issues related to the opioid epidemic, one of Arkansas' two United States senators and the state's Attorney General said Wednesday.
According to Little Rock television station KARK, Sen. Tom Cotton and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge hosted an event in Little Rock to discuss the issue. Cotton has sponsored federal legislation to strengthen federal laws on the issue while Rutledge has filed suit against the makers of opioids, saying they have violated the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Arkansas Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act.
Rutledge has also created a state program called Prescription for Life. The program, which is now in nearly 50 school districts around the state, discusses prescription drug abuse with students.
Both officials said during the event that prescription drugs are and can be deadly.
"When Arkansans with opioid addictions can no longer afford to buy pain pills, they often turn to the street for heroin or fentanyl, which offers a similar high at a fraction of the price but at a much higher cost - their lives," Rutledge said. "This is a multi-faceted problem, and I am committed to an all-of-the-above approach that includes more stringent punishment for criminal activity, educational tools to empower future generations to help them make responsible decisions about prescription drug use and litigation that will hold companies responsible for the damage they have brought to our state."
"Fentanyl is one of the most dangerous drugs there is. It killed more than 20,000 Americans last year and has been a driving force behind the opioid crisis in the United States," Cotton said. "But while the epidemic has spiraled, our drug laws have been stuck in the past. The legislation I've introduced will make sure, when it comes to opioid distribution and trafficking, the punishment fits the crime. I look forward to working with Attorney General Rutledge and Arkansas law enforcement to protect Arkansans from these terrible drugs."