US President Barack Obama has pledged millions of dollars to increase the support on offer to drug addicts in America.

Obama made it clear he saw substance misuse as a health problem rather than a crime and committed $116 million to pay for treatment for users of heroin and prescription opioids. The money will be spent on schemes aimed at prevention of drug abuse and support and care for users.

The White House has also proposed an extra $7 million in funding for the US Justice department which will be spent on community policing.

Opioid abuse is a growing problem in the US and this type of drug was responsible for the deaths of 28,647 people in 2014, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obama’s funding announcement has been seen as a move to focus on tackling opioid misuse as a public health issue rather than waging war on drugs.

Of the $116 million of funding, $94 million will go to 271 Community Health Centers in areas where drug misuse is considered problem. The intention is that the extra funding will allow them to offer  medication-assisted treatment to around 124,000 more people who are using heroin or other opioids.

And $11 million will be spent on naloxone, a drug which can act as an antidote to opioid overdoses and could potentially save thousands of lives.

Opioids are designed to be used as painkillers but the addictive nature of the medication means many people become addicted and find themselves taking larger doses to achieve the same effect.

Heroin and morphine remain a problem in UK

While in the US, prescription opioids like Fentanyl are causing major problems, in the UK it is still heroin and morphine which are linked to fatal overdoses.

Statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that 952 people in the UK died after taking heroin or morphine in 2014, the highest number since 2001. This figure also shows a sharp rise in the number of fatal overdoses from 2012 when 579 deaths were linked to the drugs.

Heroin-related deaths account for 42% of the total number of fatalities caused by drug misuse in the UK.

If you suspect someone you know is misusing heroin, morphine or another type of opiate, it is important to help that person seek the appropriate care, treatment and support. Employers may choose to use workplace drug testing if they suspect a member of staff may have a substance misuse problem or they may use random testing to monitor drug use among their employees as a whole.

People who are concerned about a loved one may encourage them to take a home drugs test to find out whether they have a substance misuse problem or to monitor any attempts at recovery.

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