Weekly Address: President Obama – A Conversation About Addiction

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, Grammy Award-winning artist Macklemore joined President Obama to discuss a disease that affects far too many Americans: addiction. Macklemore opened up about his own experience, his life in recovery, and the loss of a friend who overdosed on prescription drugs at a young age – emphasizing that substance use disorder affects people from all walks of life. To underscore the importance of Macklemore’s story, the President noted that we can help those suffering in private by making the conversation public, and we should do everything we can to make treatment available to everyone who needs it. The President noted that while the House of Representatives passed several bills on opioids this week, without more funding to expand treatment, these bills will not be enough to provide Americans the help they need. President Obama said there is hope, and that when we treat substance use disorder as the public health problem it is, more people will get the help they need. If you are looking for treatment in your area, call 1-800-662-HELP.

Transcript: Weekly Address: A Conversation About Addiction

Remarks of President Barack Obama and Macklemore as Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address, The White House, May 14, 2016

THE PRESIDENT: Hi, everybody. I’ve got a special guest with me this week – Macklemore. For those of you who don’t share the same love[i] for hip-hop, he’s a Grammy-winning artist – but he’s also an advocate who’s giving voice to a disease we too often just whisper about: the disease of addiction.

MACKLEMORE: Hey, everybody. I’m here with President Obama because I take this personally. I abused prescription drugs and battled addiction. If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed when I needed it, I might not be here today. And I want to help others facing the same challenges I did.

THE PRESIDENT: Drug overdoses now take more lives every year than traffic accidents. Deaths from opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000. A lot of the time, they’re from legal drugs prescribed by a doctor. So addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley – it often starts in a medicine cabinet. In fact, a new study released this month found that 44 percent of Americans know someone who has been addicted to prescription pain killers.

MACKLEMORE: I didn’t just know someone – I lost someone. My friend Kevin overdosed on painkillers when he was just 21 years old. Addiction is like any other disease – it doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care what color you are, whether you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, whether you live in the inner-city, a suburb, or rural America. This doesn’t just happen to other people’s kids or in some other neighborhood. It can happen to any of us.

THE PRESIDENT: That’s why just talking about this crisis isn’t enough – we need to get treatment to more people who need it. My administration is working with communities to reduce overdose deaths, including with medication. We’re working with law enforcement to help people get into treatment instead of jail. And under Obamacare, health plans in the Marketplace have to include coverage for treatment.

MACKLEMORE: I know recovery isn’t easy or quick, but along with the 12-step program, treatment has saved my life. Recovery works – and we need our leaders in Washington fund it and people know how to find it.

THE PRESIDENT: We all need to do more to make that happen. I’ve asked Congress to expand access to recovery services, and to give first responders the tools they need to treat overdoses before it’s too late. This week, the House passed several bills about opioids – but unless they also make actual investments in more treatment, it won’t get Americans the help they need.

On top of funding, doctors also need more training about the power of the pain medication they prescribe, and the risks they carry. Another way our country can help those suffering in private is to make this conversation public.

MACKLEMORE: When you’re going through it, it’s hard to imagine there could be anything worse than addiction. But shame and the stigma associated with the disease keeps too many people from seeking the help they need. Addiction isn’t a personal choice or a personal failing. And sometimes it takes more than a strong will to get better – it takes a strong community and accessible resources.

THE PRESIDENT: The good news is, there’s hope. When we talk about opioid abuse as the public health problem it is, more people will seek the help they need. More people will find the strength to recover, just like Macklemore and millions of Americans have. We’ll see fewer preventable deaths and fewer broken families.

MACKLEMORE: We have to tell people who need help that it’s OK to ask for it. We’ve got to make sure they know where to get it.

THE PRESIDENT: We all have a role to play. Even if we haven’t fought this battle in our own lives, there’s a good chance we know someone who has, or who is.

MACKLEMORE: President Obama and I just had a powerful conversation here at the White House about opioid abuse, and what we can do about it. You can catch it this summer on MTV. And to find treatment in your area, call 1-800-662-HELP.

THE PRESIDENT: Thanks, and have a great weekend.

[i] “Same Love” is the title of Macklemore’s hit 2012 song about marriage equality.

Bolding added.




  1. The president is asking for Congress’ help.

    From Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, on Thursday: Why We Need More Resources for the Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic

    Today, the House of Representatives voted on legislation highlighting the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. While the Obama administration welcomes these and other Congressional efforts to call attention to this public health crisis, they are not enough without the actual funding needed to prevent opioid use disorders and increase access to treatment and recovery services.

    I have spoken with hundreds of parents and family members across the country who have lost loved ones to overdose. Too many of them shared similar stories about long waits for treatment or a lack of good treatment options in their communities.

    That’s why the President has called on Congress to pass the $1.1 billion in new funding in his Budget to make sure that every American with an opioid use disorder who wants treatment can get the help they need.

    The President’s Budget would also support the placement of treatment providers in the communities most in need and would continue to develop effective treatment programs. This builds on current Administration efforts to expand evidence-based prevention strategies, increase access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, improve prescribing practices for pain medication, and support targeted enforcement activities.

    Every day we lose more Americans to this devastating disease. And every day that passes without Congressional action on funding to support the treatment needs of those suffering from opioid use disorders is a missed opportunity to save lives.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way. The stories of loss are not the only ones I hear in my travels across the country. Millions of Americans are in recovery from opioid and other substance use disorders because they got the treatment and care they needed. That’s why we continue to call on Congress to provide the resources to ensure that every American who wants treatment can get it and start the road to recovery.

  2. From the White House. Yesterday, the president greeted the leaders from the 5 Nordic countries as they arrived for talks (and later a state dinner):

    The White House @WhiteHouse
    “We are honored to welcome, not one nation, but five—our great Nordic friends” —@POTUS #NordicVisit #NordicUSAsummit

  3. Thank you for this important post about treatment, Jan. Speaking as one who celebrated 35 years of sobriety at Beltane, I know how important it is to recognize and deal with the problem.

    We couldn’t have afforded rehab in the early 1980s. I went to AA. It was free and it worked! I am unsleepingly grateful to that organization and what I learned from the wonderful people in it.

    Later, I successfully overcame my addiction to cigarettes (33 years in October) and I’m now working to overcome my addiction to sugar.

    The best thing about today is there is no longer quite such a stigma attached to alcoholism. People seem to admit it more readily without blinking and other people take the knowledge in stride. If it hadn’t been for AA, I wouldn’t be here today.

    I hope President Obama gets his funding but with the Congress we have, I’m not sanguine about his prospects.

  4. We saw some of the coverage of the White House dinner in the local news. Of course, being a “newsiness” organization, they neglected to mention that the heads of five Scandinavian nations were being honored. They simply showed the head of state from Finland and Michelle Obama’s dress.

    David Muir, whom we watch five nights a week, was there. I wondered why he wasnn’t doing the news as usual.

    • Twitter did include many dress related Tweets. I guess that State Dinners are as much about the fashions as they are about our hosting the leaders of other nations. I watched the welcome ceremony live via the White House feed Friday morning. The Nordic leaders really like our president!!! That felt good.

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