Tox Tuesday: As 142 Americans die daily of overdoses, White House commission outlines solutions

The White House’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis recently published its interim report, in which the commission outlined its recommendations to U.S. President Donald Trump regarding actions to halt the country’s ongoing opioid crisis.

“Our nation is in a crisis,” said the open letter to the president. It cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on data suggesting that 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose, meaning that America endures a death toll equal to the September 11 attacks every three weeks.

“Our citizens are dying,” the commission said. “We must act boldly to stop it.”

Between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 people in the U.S. died due to drug overdoses, especially opioid overdoses, which have quadrupled in the past 17 years. The commissioners in part blame the high number of opioid prescriptions administered within the nation — higher than in any other country in the world, having also quadrupled in recent years.

“We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctors’ offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” the report said.

But as access to prescription drugs becomes stricter, dangerous street opioids like heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil are blamed as well. More and more people are abusing illegal drugs and prescription medication, but data shows that few receive help.

How does the commission hope for these problems to be fixed? It outlines several suggestions, including one strong request to the president.

“Declare a national emergency under either the Public Health Service Act or the Stafford Act,” the commission urged. “[A declaration of emergency] would awaken every American to this simple fact: If this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will.”

The commission also recommends that executive action be taken to support the following motions, among others:

  • Increasing treatment capacity
  • Mandating prescriber education initiatives to enhance prevention efforts
  • Improve access to the overdose-reversing medication naloxone, including by equipping law enforcement with the drug
  • Support interstate data sharing among prescription drug monitoring programs
  • Better align patient privacy laws specific to addiction
  • Enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act to ensure health plans cannot impose less favorable benefits for mental health and substance abuse diagnoses

The interim report precedes a full report expected to be published in the fall.

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