The John Thomas Decker Act, named for a Montgomery County native who became addicted to prescription painkillers after a sports injury, will be up for a vote before the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday.
The legislation, if passed, would require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to review the resources and educational materials available about opioid addiction among young athletes. The agency would then publicly report the findings, including addiction treatment options, and share materials with students, parents and athletic organizations.
Young athletes are susceptible to becoming addicted to powerful painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin while nursing sports injuries like ligament tears and broken bones.
In Generation Addicted, NBC10's in-depth investigation into the opioid and heroin epidemic, Steve Lesnikoski detailed how a high school football injury sent him into a tailspin, eventually leading to heroin use.
Heroin, a type of opioid, is a fraction of the cost of prescription painkillers which typically sell for $60 to $80 a pill on the street. It also provides a stronger high.
Drug overdoses, many from opioid and heroin use, claim more men 19 to 25 years old in Pennsylvania than any other state in the country, the CDC reports.
Decker, a college lacrosse star, was found dead by his parents inside the family's Gladwyne home in January. The 30-year-old became addicted to prescription painkillers after undergoing surgeries for a knee injury suffered while playing basketball as a teen, his father, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. Like so many others who get hooked on the powerful synthetic pills, Decker turned to heroin, the father said.
Congressman Patrick Meehan (Pa.-7th) heads up the Congressional Youth Sports Caucus. He's a friend of Decker's family and introduced the bill in April.
"We need to know the dangers, first to stop a pain med for a torn ACL from becoming a dependency, and then to be able to intervene effectively before a painkiller is swapped out for heroin. It’s literally killing our kids and student-athletes," Meehan said in a statement Tuesday.
Meehan, the former Delaware County District Attorney, expects the bill to pass with bipartisan support. In addition to the Decker Act, the congressman introduced two other bills around the issue -- one that provides grants to states for using prescription drug monitoring databases and another that would establish a drug monitoring database for Medicare patients at risk for addiction.
Congress is also scheduled to vote on the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act on Friday.