Lawmakers want better treatment for opioid-addicted teens

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) Teenagers across the country, the group hardest hit by opiate addiction, often struggle the most to find treatment, but now a new U.S. Senate bill could help that.

For teens, the first high from a powerful painkiller is even riskier than it is for an adult. That's because those developing young minds are far more vulnerable to addiction, especially after a second prescription

"The disease itself seems to progress much more quickly," said Dr. Julia Finkel, the lead researcher at Children's National in Washington D.C.

Data from the American Society of Addiction Medicine shows in 2015, nearly 300,000 people 17 or younger were using pain killers recreationally. More than 120,000 were addicted to those pain killers.

Finkel says those numbers are not declining, and the medical system is not well equipped to treat those teens. She says just one-percent of pediatricians are qualified to deliver treatments to ween kids off prescription and hard drugs. "I believe this is an emergency. There's enough data so that a wait and see isn't necessary," she said.

Congress is considering creating pilot programs tailored to teens, and better training physicians.

"Professionals in this field need to have every tool that's possibly available," said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. His bipartisan bill would make $5 million available in grants -- a financial starting point which Peters hopes grows.

White House officials wouldn't say whether the bill will have the President's support. "Everything we can do to help reduce -- reduce deaths and improve public safety is on the table," said spokesman Raj Shah.

For now, the proposal remains a long way from becoming law, as it waits for a senate committee to take a look at it.