60% of overdose deaths involve an opioid, and more than half a million people died…
President Obama Announces Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week
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President Obama and his administration announced the official Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week as part of a strategy to limit drug use and abuse. This campaign is critical in combatting the opioid addiction challenges facing the nation and in strengthening the current programs already in place. Here is a brief summary of the issues that were addressed by the government in relation to the national opioid epidemic.
Expanding Access to Treatment
The government has taken steps to mitigate challenges related to opioid addiction treatment. One of the critical areas discussed during Awareness Week is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) final rule to increase of patient limit for buprenorphine treatment by practitioners from 100 to 275. This means that doctors can prescribe more patients with the drug buprenorphine, which is very helpful in treating opioid addiction.
In addition, the VA Secretary addressed the administration’s effort in helping veterans who are suffering from drug addiction, calling for more awareness that there are veterans out there still struggling with opioid addiction.
Medicare and Medicaid are also on board, establishing new strategies to reduce the risks of opioid abuse by patients by utilizing person-centered and population-based strategies to decrease opioid use, prescriptions, and overdoses.
In addition, TRICARE beneficiaries who are struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders are set to receive more extensive treatment for mental health and substance use disorders via intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and office-based opioid treatment. It is estimated that at least 15 to 20,000 beneficiaries that are addicted to opioids could not receive treatment but now they can.
Support for Evidence-Based Prevention
The Obama administration has created clear guidelines on mitigating drug abuse by promoting evidence-based prevention and supporting targeted enforcement. Attorney General Lynch addressed the issue of opioid use in Kentucky and discussed the ways in which the administration is improving the prevention, treatment and enforced programs. The Department of Justice is also set to increase the funding allocated to monitor prescription opioid drugs.
There will also be grants to reinforce the investigation of drug manufacturing networks and their distribution channels. The DEA in conjunction with other departments is set to release PSAs for both radio and TVs to promote prevention. Additionally, as part of the Awareness Week, letters were sent out to educators by John King. These explore the role that schools can play in the prevention of prescription opioid and heroin abuse by the youth.
Reducing Synthetic Opioids Supply
Synthetic opioids have certainly contributed to the escalation of the opioid epidemic. During the Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, the Obama administration announced that there are improved strategies for dealing with fentanyl and its other opioid analogues. This plan has been set in motion in conjunction with the Chinese government since much of the illicit substances have been traced back to China. There will be a continued exchange of law enforcement and specific scientific information between the nations to ensure that the flow of synthetic opioids and other controlled substances is limited.
Preventing Overdose with Naloxone
Drug overdose of prescription opioids and heroin often leads to death. However, this can be prevented by the use naloxone, which can reverse the effects and save numerous lives. The DEA has trained over a thousand employees to efficiently administer this treatment on the field to limit overdose deaths. In addition, the FDA announced a public contest on developing a Naloxone App. The objective of the competition is to develop a crowd-sourced application for mobile phones that will help opioid users and their immediate networks to identify overdoses and react appropriately.
Finally, individuals will get an opportunity to participate in the combat against opioid abuse on October 22, which is the official National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. Held by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), this event will promote safe and responsible disposal of prescription opioids, asking people to get rid of prescriptions not needed in a safe way. In fact, combining the last eleven Take Back Days, over 6.4 million pounds of medication have been safely discarded. Be sure to check with your local pharmacies to see if they are involved in the drug take-back program.
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