Federal government making progress in opioid struggle
Thursday, November 16, 2017
For several years, the growing opioid crisis has been at the forefront of discussions among healthcare professionals, government officials and families who have lost loved ones to these addictive drugs. No corner of American society — regardless of age, ethnicity or background — has been spared from this drug epidemic, which led to more than 59,000 deaths in 2016.
A report published last month in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) indicated that more than half of the individuals that died as a result of opioid overdose during the second half of 2016 were found to have tested positive for fentanyl or a drug that has a similar chemical structure. The data was gathered from opioid overdose deaths from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2016, across 10 states
This critical information was made available through the CDC's Enhanced State Opioid Surveillance program, which allows for the use of toxicology and death scene investigation data. This information was previously unavailable but now provides factors that perpetuate opioid overdoses and can help to track trends and changes in the opioid epidemic and assist with the development of interventions to combat the issue.
Another factor that may help in the battle is that President Donald Trump asked the Department of Health and Human Services to declare the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. There had been discussion of making it a national emergency back in August, which would have allowed for funds to address the escalating issue, but this unfortunately did not turn out to be the case.
Once the opioid epidemic was given the designation of a "public health crisis," this allows for more funds to target opioid abuse, the hiring of specialists that are specifically trained to address the crisis and the increase the use of telemedicine to provide services to those in rural areas that have been significantly impacted by opioid use.
The current directive announced by Trump does not formally allocate additional funding to address the drug crisis. However, the Trump administration plans to develop advertising to discourage Americans from starting to use opioids in the first place, similar to the "Just Say No" campaign that was developed and launched by Nancy Reagan in the 1980s.
While some may believe that this will not be a strong enough initiative to make a dent on this growing crisis, it can be viewed as initial steps toward progress. The overarching goal that has been echoed by many Americans as well as the Trump administration is to remove the plague of addiction in America.
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