The Opioid Crisis: Overdoses Continue Increasing in the US

CDC reports opioid overdoses rise 33 percent in US over 14-month timeframe as published in the Guardian. Dramatic increases from 2016 overdose totals killing 64,000 in the US as compared to September 2017 statistics reveal increases in overdoses in most states and regions. A few states stood out as clear losers in the opioid battle with Wisconsin and Delaware more than doubling the overdose rate.

Pennsylvania was not far behind these rates with overdoses rising 81 percent. While rural America is often viewed as the worst hit areas, in actuality, metropolitan areas with populations over 1 million suffered the highest increases, totaling a 54 percent increase in overdoses.

The Guardian reports that Acting CDC Director, Dr. Anne Schuchat points out that the overdoses extend across most age groups impacting women and men and most states and regions throughout the US, indiscriminately. She’s quoted saying, “We’re currently seeing the highest overdose death rates ever recorded in the United States.”

Who Is to Blame

This increase in opioid use and the resulting rise in the death toll is nothing new. The National Institute on Drug Abusecites changes in the late 1990s that explain the current crisis. That’s when pharmaceutical companies encouraged increased opioid usage, playing down the risk for addiction. This shift in attitudes is blamed by many for the current crisis.

Proposed Measures to Curb Overdose Deaths

Healthcare officials are calling for a comprehensive approach to this crisis. A top priority is to release a greater supply of naloxone which can save lives by reversing overdoses. Greater access to mental health services is also touted as an important step for addressing the problem. A third component of this comprehensive solution would be medicine-based addiction treatment.

Proposed White House Measures to Curb Overdose Deaths

After a week-long Summit about opioid abuse, Donald Trump voiced his idea to sue opioid manufacturers. Attorney General Sessions jumped on the Trump bandwagon and echoed the President’s idea announcing the Department of Justice’s support of local lawsuits levied against manufacturers as a way of combatting this health crisis.

Budget Demands

Public health officials are requesting funds to fight this disaster that continues to claim more lives every year with no signs of slowing. Some estimates are as much as $6 billion as the required budget necessary to start implementing changes to turn the tide and impact change. Even after a lot of lip service, to date, Congress has yet to fund a budget to tackle this health disaster.

NIH Action Plan

NIH met with the academic community and pharmaceutical companies in 2017 to address the health challenges presented by opioid abuse. The agenda included discussions about safer ways to manage and treat chronic pain, innovative medications and options for treatment of opioid abuse, and new preventative and life-saving measures to support recovery. NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., attended the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit in April 2018, launching HEAL Initiative, pegged as an effort to improve and curb the opioid crisis. Only time will tell whether NIH has the resources necessary to impact this problem that plagues the US.