U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) this week reintroduced legislation that seeks to crack down on opioid misuse among students and athletes by allowing schools, youth athletic associations, and communities to create their own prevention programs.
Endorsed by the National Football League Players Association, the Student and Student Athlete Opioid Misuse Prevention Act would allow the Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use up to provide $10 million annually for any support programs for students and student athletes. Those who spend the most time with these students could also benefit, as the funds could be put toward the training of teachers, administrators, coaches, and others.
“Much of the substance use disorder epidemic took root in our communities through opioid medication, which remains a threat to students and in particular student athletes,” Shaheen said. “We need to make sure there are programs in place to prevent another generation from falling victim to this crisis, which is why this legislation is so necessary. We need to make sure we’re investing in prevention programs to reduce the risk of opioid misuse among all students. This should be a comprehensive approach to confront the full scope of this crisis, and this legislation can play an important role in that effort.”
To support her bill, Shaheen pointed to statistics provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which tracked around 769,000 kids between ages 12 and 17 misusing opioids in 2017. That number ballooned to around 7.3 percent when looking at young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Figures have proven even worse among student athletes. A 2018 study by the American Journal on Addiction noted that nonmedical use of prescription opioids in student athletes hit as high as 8.3 percent.
In addition to its support from the football league, Shaheen’s legislation was also cosponsored by U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
“Far too often, high school athletes become addicted to opioids after being prescribed pain killers for an injury, which is why Congress must act to help educate coaches, teachers, and students about the dangers of opioid misuse,” Hassan said. “This commonsense legislation would help prevent the next generation from misusing opioids and aid in our efforts to stem – and ultimately reverse – the tide of this devastating epidemic.”