America’s 8-Step Program for Opioid Addiction

By on October 2, 2017

From The New York Times:  Opioid addiction has developed such a powerful grip on Americans that some scientists have blamed it for lowering our life expectancy.

Drug overdoses, nearly two-thirds of them from prescription opioids, heroin and synthetic opioids, killed some 64,000 Americans last year, over 20 percent more than in 2015. That is also more than double the number in 2005, and nearly quadruple the number in 2000, when accidental falls killed more Americans than opioid overdoses.

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis said in July that its “first and most urgent recommendation” was for President Trump to declare a national emergency, to free up emergency funds for the crisis and “awaken every American to this simple fact: If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.” The commission’s final report is due out in a month.

Mr. Trump has not declared an emergency, and “bold” would not describe the steps the White House has taken so far. The president’s 2018 budget request increases addiction treatment funding by less than 2 percent, even including $500 million already appropriated by Congress in 2016 under the 21st Century Cures Act.

Families across the United States are demanding that more be done to end the despair and devastation of addiction. Here are eight steps to take — now. They include some of the recommendations of the president’s commission.

SAVE LIVES Active users need to be kept alive long enough to seek treatment. First responders and emergency rooms lack adequate supplies of naloxone, the medication that can save someone who has overdosed on opioids, particularly fentanyl, a drug so toxic it requires multiple doses of naloxone to reverse. Both federal and state health agencies can negotiate lower prices and expand access to naloxone, and provide encouragement to the pharmacies that are already offering it prescription-free in many states. Congress can help by passing legislation to protect the responders who administer naloxone from liability. The government also needs to spend more on needle exchange and clean syringe programs to combat the infectious diseases that are associated with sharing needles.

TREAT, DON’T ARREST Nearly 300 law enforcement agencies in 31 states now participate in the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative, which offers treatment for drug users who ask the authorities for help, an approach inspired by a program established in Gloucester, Mass. Officers work the phones to get addicts into treatment and recovery networks, in an effort that costs less and promises more lasting results than repeatedly arresting them.

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