U.S. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar shared a personal story Wednesday about growing up with an alcoholic dad. She told a crowded room in Washington, D.C., about his struggle with addiction and road to recovery and how it propelled her to take action in ways such as supporting the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.
"This was part of my life," Klobuchar said at a Capitol Hill conference about preventing opioid drug abuse among young people, which was organized by a Minnesota-based recovery center. "I'm so committed to doing something about this." Klobuchar's father was longtime Star Tribune columnist Jim Klobuchar, who retired from the paper in 1996.
According to a survey released Wednesday by the Hazelden Betty Ford Institute for Recovery and Advocacy, a third of the 1,200 college-age respondents around the country found pain medications easy to acquire in places such as medicine cabinets at homes of their parents, friends or grandparents. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, "Opioids are medications that relieve pain. They reduce the intensity of pain signals reaching the brain and affect those brain areas controlling emotion."
The survey, in which 24 percent of respondents were from the Midwest, found 16 percent of the young adults had at some point used pain pills not prescribed to them, but they would not know how to find help in case of an overdose.
Klobuchar was joined by Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., and U.S. Attorney Andy Luger at the event hosted by Hazelden leaders to discuss drug use among America's youth and how to prevent drug-related deaths.
Paulsen said as a father of four daughters, he thinks "educating them and educating youth about the dangers of these drugs is really critical and important."
Nick Motu, of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, said Klobuchar and Paulsen's bipartisan support has been important to the foundation's efforts, noting that Klobuchar has supported such issues since her election.
"This is an epidemic in the true definition of an epidemic," Motu said of opioid use among young adults. "It has permeated all communities across the country. We won't give up this fight until we see a change."
Motu said that besides public policy initiatives such as Wednesday's event, the foundation also works to educate the public and reduce the stigma of addiction.
William Moyers, vice president of public affairs and community relations for the foundation, called opioid use the "issue of the moment."
"From where I'm standing, it seems we cannot do enough to educate every generation about the issues that bring us into this room today," Moyers told the crowd.
Despite public attention being turned to the issue, young people do not appreciate the deadly dangers of these drugs, Moyers said.
"Prevention works, treatment works and recovery is possible," he said.