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America Is Awash In Opioids And Urgent Action Is Critical, According To Former CDC Director

Drug Overdose Epidemic Called A Horrifying Crisis

ďOne of the most heartbreaking problems Iíve faced as CDC director is our nationís opioid crisis. Lives, families, and communities continue to be devastated by this complex and evolving epidemic.Ē Thatís how the former CDC Director characterized the phenomenal increase in drug overdose deaths before resigning on Inauguration Day. Just how bad is the opioid epidemic?

Recent publications by the CDC have provided details of the epidemic through 2015 which is the latest full year of compiled data. The New York Times reported in April and again in June 2017 on estimated data it has compiled for 2016. The startling increases are only getting worse, according to the Times investigation.

To better grasp the magnitude and slope of the epidemic curve, the Times compared the increases in drug overdose deaths to those from other well-recognized problems. The table below reveals that since 1990, all of the comparison conditions have actually decreased while drug overdoses have increased by more than 500%!
 

Cause of death 1990 Deaths 2015 Deaths Change
Car accidents 44,600 37,757 Decrease
Guns 36,943 35,763 Decrease
HIV 27,256 6,465 Decrease
Drug overdoses 8,413 52,404 Increase

>500%

                                                                                         

The NY Times predicts based on their extensive investigation of the overdose deaths likely to be reported for 2016 that the number will be 62,497. If this occurs, it will be the single largest one year increase in overdose deaths. Said the Times in April, ďItís the worst drug overdose epidemic in American history, spurred by rising drug abuse, increased availability of prescription opioids and an influx of potent synthetics like fentanyl and carfentanil.Ē

The paper quotes heroin researcher Dan Ciccarone of the University of California, San Francisco, ďÖItís horrifying. Itís not even the magnitudeóitís the steepness at which itís climbing.Ē

According to Frieden, control and prevention efforts must include the following:

Rescue people whose lives are at immediate risk

o   Administer naloxone to reverse overdoses in progress

o   Increase access to naloxone among first responders

o   Expand training programs on naloxone

o   Increase access to medication-assisted treatment

o   Train more providers to offer this treatment

o   Support law enforcement to reduce the supply of drugs


Prevent opioid use disorder from developing

o   Improve how doctors prescribe opioids for pain treatment

o   Make better use of prescription monitoring programs

o   Increase awareness of risks and benefits for persons given the drugs


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