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overdose deaths

Last week we discussed a naloxone price freeze which will hopefully expand access to the life-saving opioid overdose reversal drug. It is hard to imagine anyone being against prescription-free naloxone at a reasonable price. While lawmakers across the board have become more accepting of naloxone, seeing the medications intrinsic value as a life-saving tool. The need for providing greater access to naloxone, commonly sold under the name Narcan, is ever apparent considering a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Prescription opioids are still a major concern in the United States, but heroin and fentanyl have been in the spotlight a lot of late. And for good reason. The CDC found that prescription opioid deaths have leveled off relatively speaking, but heroin and fentanyl deaths continue to rise sharply, The Washington Post reports. In 2015, opioid overdoses took the lives of more than 30,000 Americans. There were 33,091 opioid overdose deaths in 2015, compared to 28,647 the year before. CDC data indicates that:

  • Heroin overdose deaths rose to 12,990 in 2015, a 23 percent spike.
  • Synthetic opioid overdose deaths rose to 9,580 in 2015, a 73 percent increase.
  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths showed a slight increase to 17,536, a 4 percent hike.

Once again, the only conclusion that can be drawn from the increase in overdose deaths is that there is a serious lack of addiction treatment services across the country. Changing prescribing practices and stemming the flow of heroin and illicit fentanyl into the country can only do so much. At the root of this epidemic is addiction, so then it stands to reason that addressing addiction by way of treatment should be the main focus of government efforts. We should see more Americans getting the help they need by way of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) and the 21st Century Cures Act.

“The prescription opioid and heroin epidemic continues to devastate communities and families across the country—in large part because too many people still do not get effective substance use disorder treatment,” said Michael Botticelli, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “That is why the President has called since February for $1 billion in new funding to expand access to treatment. This week Congress finally acted on the President’s request. The Administration will work to get this new funding out to States as quickly as possible to make sure that every American who wants treatment for an opioid use disorder is able to get it.”