States Show the Way on the Opioid Epidemic

Originally Published in New York Times | Full Story Link Here

August 24, 2018

The opioid epidemic is far from contained — the national death toll from drug overdoses climbed to a record high last year. But some states and cities are bucking the trend and showing how governments can get a grip on the worst drug crisis in American history.

In 2017, overdose deaths in the United States jumped 10 percent, to about 72,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week. The new data show that people are dying from opioids that are more potent and more dangerous than were available in years past. The C.D.C. also found that many people who overdose are simultaneously using multiple drugs like heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamines and benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medicine, and that the crisis has spread across the country, from rural and suburban areas to cities.

Given all this grim news, the areas where overdose deaths are decreasing— Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming, per the C.D.C. — stand out. Some of these states have taken a more thoughtful approach to helping people who suffer from what experts call opioid use disorder and have worked to prevent more people from becoming addicted to prescription pain pills. Along with some cities, like San Francisco, these states have been at the forefront of increasing access to the anti-overdose medicine naloxone and to anti-addiction medicines like buprenorphine and methadone, which experts say can help people who are dependent on opioids live relatively normal lives.

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