The use of opioid drugs has become an increasingly recognizable health problem across the United States, leading to abuse, overdoses and at times death. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, opioid pain relievers were involved in more than 16,600 deaths in 2013 — nearly half the total number of overdose deaths.

In response to this national epidemic, the federal government has begun crafting policies to deter opioid abuse, as well as treat substance abuse and the disease of addiction as a public health issue.

Last week, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced efforts to reduce the amount of a large majority of Schedule II opioid drugs made in the U.S. by 25 percent or greater. The new DEA order is expected to reduce hydrocodone production by 66 percent in 2017 as well as other related medications.

Along with the DEA initiative, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines to aid providers when it comes to the prescribing of opioid medications for specific pain ailments and potentially deter drug abuse.

The U.S. government is actively seeking to be proactive and aggressive in its efforts to combat the growing epidemic of painkiller abuse, which is a leading cause of death for tens of thousands of people per year. One of the notable initiatives is to make addiction treatment available to more Americans.

In March, President Barack Obama announced new regulations for state Medicaid programs that would cover treatment for drug abuse as well as a proposal that would allow physicians to prescribe treatment for opioid addiction for up to 200 patients — double the current amount allowed. The ability to allow physicians to prescribe for treatment and management is viewed as another important element to addressing the current problem.

The Obama administration also plans to allot $94 million in federal funding to provide medication-assisted treatment at 271 community health centers across the U.S. and also increasing access to naloxone, alternative treatments to opioid drugs and development of abuse deterrent medications. About $11 million will be provided to purchase naloxone and train emergency workers to administer the agent in the event of an overdose.

The White House also sent letters to state officials requiring pharmacists to update central databases when filling prescriptions for opiate painkillers and requiring physicians to check the databases when their patients request the medicines.

The goal of curbing opioid abuse, allowing for more appropriate use and increasing addiction to care for those suffering from addiction is at the cornerstone of the new measures that are designed to tackle this growing issue. The opioid epidemic is leading to the loss of many Americans lives, and changes are being made to address this crisis.