The opioid crisis in the United States has been increasing silently for years. Statistic show that over 90 Americans die each day after overdosing on opioids. It’s a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare, and the Oval Office has recently recognized it as a national crisis. How did we get to the point of a crisis? Here are some facts about the opioid crisis national emergency, how we got here, and what’s next.
What is the opioid crisis?
Since 1999, the number of people who have died from overdoses of either prescription opioids or heroin has nearly quadrupled in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Currently, about 1,000 Americans die per week from drug overdose (not just from opioids), according to a statement from Trump’s opioid commission. And in 2015, opioids (prescription and heroin) killed more than 33,000 people, more than in any other year on record, according to the CDC. It’s been speculated that 2016 surpassed 2015.
What does calling it a national emergency accomplish?
When the White House declared the crisis a national emergency, it brought additional attention to the already severe issue. The declaration could open up more resources for addressing the epidemic. How and which resources become available will depend upon which path the administration takes for this emergency declaration. Here are possibilities with this declaration:
- FEMA money could be available to states.
- Public health workers could be redeployed.
- Access to medication-assisted treatment could get a boost.
- Medicaid could pay for more treatment.
- Congress could appropriate money.
- States could request aid.
How did we get to this point?
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies told the medical community that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers, and healthcare providers began to prescribe them at even greater rates upon this assurance. This subsequently led to widespread misuse of these medications before it became clear that these medications could in reality be highly addictive. Opioid overdose rates began to increase. In 2015, more than 33,000 Americans died because of an opioid overdose, including prescription opioids, heroin, and other similar drugs. An estimated 2 million people in the United States suffered from substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers, and 591,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder.
What happens now that it’s been declared a national emergency?
With this declaration, financial support will become available to fight this crisis, potentially saving numerous lives by providing services and resources so long in short supply. It will also elevate the overall public awareness to the fact that drug addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as a disease, not a crime. Reputable addiction recovery centers can help not only with addiction treatment, but relapse prevention. The next few weeks will be telling in how the public handles this new declaration.
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