I feel compelled to talk about the mounting opioid epidemic in this country that claimed more lives in one year than the entire Vietnam War.
President Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency on October 26, 2017; however, it did not include any additional funds as it was not declared a national emergency, which would have prompted the allocations of federal funds; furthermore; Trump did not request any additional funds on his own. Declaring a public health emergency does give the administration access to the public health emergency fund, which shockingly only contains $57,000, Congress has not deposited any money into this fund since 1993!
We are nearing the end of this declaration as Public health emergencies expire after 90 days and there has some actions have been put into place.
- A new policy to overcome an old federal rule that prevented states from providing more access to care at treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. This allows people get better access to care and less waiting lists.
- All federally employed prescribers were directed to receive special training.
- The National Institutes of Health is collaborating with pharmaceutical companies to develop non-addictive painkillers and new treatments for addiction and overdose. (Yet the commission on drugs specifically declined to endorse the use of marijuana although there have been studies suggesting that access to marijuana may decrease opioid deaths.)
A commission on combating drug addiction and the opioid crisis has been formed, the commission’s report lists 56 recommendations; among them, their most urgent recommendation is calling for a national multi-media campaign to fight the national health emergency. The reports states that the campaign should include aggressive television and social media outreach, focusing on telling our children of the dangers of these drugs, removing the stigma of addiction and educating the public of the health risks associated with the drugs.
My question is where is this National campaign? I can only assume it is still under development as I have been unable to find any new campaigns initiated since the final recommendations were released on November 1, 2017.
I disagree with the commission’s most urgent recommendation to create a multi-media campaign targeted at education. The majority of those who become addicted and later abuse opioids are taking them for pain management as a result of a surgery.
A recent study sponsored by Pacira Pharmaceuticals “Women 40-59 years old received the greatest number of opioid prescriptions overall, almost twice as many as their male counterparts. This age group also includes the female demographic (ages 45-54) most at risk of dying from an overdose of prescription opioids and 13% becoming persistent opioid users three to six months following surgery.”
Another key finding of the study indicates that overprescribing of opioids post-surgery results in 3.3 billion unused pills, making these drugs available for misuse.
I feel like efforts to combat this public health emergency can be improved by re-aligning our priorities with the correct target population, finding and making accessible non-addictive complementary and alternatives to pain management (marijuana for example) and de-criminalizing opioids, instead focusing our efforts on treatment.