It’s no secret that the opioid epidemic is spreading at an alarming rate throughout Oklahoma.

Our friends, our family members, and our neighbors – we all know someone affected by the opioid epidemic.

Today, more than 2.4 million Americans struggle with addiction to opioids – a fifty percent increase over the last 10 years. With overdose as the leading cause of accidental deaths in our country, it is clear that something must be done to change the direction of this tragic epidemic.

Last week, the Trump administration formally declared the opioid epidemic as a national emergency. President Trump has created the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis to ensure that states across the country have the full support of the federal government when it comes to combatting the opioid epidemic inside their states.

With the states and the federal governments working together, I’m hopeful that we are able to research causes of the opioid epidemic, find effective treatments for those in need, and locate ways to drastically reduce the staggering rates of overdose deaths each year.

Along with our president, I am committed to fighting the opioid epidemic in Oklahoma and across our country. That’s why I joined Congresswoman Katherine Clark (D-MA) to introduce H.R. 3528, the Every Prescription Conveyed Securely (EPCS) Act, to reverse the downward spiral of opioid addiction in our country.

The EPCS Act would require all prescriptions written for controlled substances under Medicare to be entered into an online database. By requiring doctors and prescribers to write e-prescriptions, they first must check the computer database to see when the patient was last prescribed a similar opioid as well as check the patient’s prescription history.

This simple check will help make sure that controlled substances are only prescribed when absolutely necessary and that the drugs are staying out of the hands of patients who may have been over prescribed previously. E-prescriptions also keep patients from "doctor shopping" in order to acquire opioids regularly or more frequently than advised by their doctor.

Across the nation, Americans are committed to combatting the opioid epidemic in their communities. In 2016, the New York Times reported that approximately 60,000 lives were lost because of drug overdoses – more than all of the Americans who died during the Vietnam War.

The battle against the opioid epidemic is just beginning, but we can all do our part to put an end to the tragic thousands that lose their lives to overdose each year. If you know someone struggling with drug addiction, encourage them to get help. For more information or to learn how to help your loved one, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) represents the second district in the U.S. House of Representatives. He can be reached through http://mullin.house.gov, and at 3109 Azalea Park Drive, Muskogee, OK, 74401, 918-687-2533 or 202-225-2701