USA – US President Joe Biden is set to unveil a new strategy for dealing with drug addiction and overdoses that aims to increase access to opioid overdose medications, increase funding for law enforcement, and expand sanctions against traffickers.
According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, the Biden administration is eager to demonstrate that it is taking action to address the country’s worsening opioid crisis, which fueled an estimated 106,854 drug overdose deaths in the year to November 2021, a 15.6 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.
“That’s an American life lost every five minutes around the clock,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, director of National Drug Control Policy at the White House.
“For too many years, the overdose crisis has been unraveling the very social fabric of our nation and destroying American lives and livelihoods,” Gupta told reporters on a press call.
The National Drug Control Strategy, which Biden will present to Congress on Thursday, aims to double treatment admissions for populations most at risk of overdose deaths by 2025 and to ensure universal access to opioid use disorder medications.
Key tools such as naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses, and syringe service programs are currently restricted or underfunded.
The newly unveiled drug control strategy, Gupta maintained, is the first to prioritize harm reduction in the nation’s history.
He emphasized that easier access to harm reduction treatments, like the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, is essential.
In some states, there are legal barriers preventing access to naloxone, and even in others, the drug is not always available to those most at risk of an overdose.
Patients who had a prior diagnosis of opioid misuse or dependence along with an overdose were more likely to receive a naloxone prescription than those who had those diagnoses but did not have an overdose.
According to Gupta, the administration also intends to triple the number of drug traffickers sanctioned and strengthen border security. Biden signed two executive orders in December aimed at combating drug trafficking and criminal networks.
One order authorized new sanctions against Chinese companies trading opioid drug fentanyl ingredients, as well as criminal gangs in Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.
Opioids continue to be the leading cause of drug overdose deaths in the United States. Over the last year, synthetic opioids, including fentanyl, were involved in roughly two-thirds of all drug overdose deaths.
While heroin-related deaths have decreased in recent months, deaths from synthetic opioids or psychostimulants have nearly doubled in the last two years.
The drug czar also underscored the need to increase data collection related to drug policy.
“For example, we know that one of the best predictors of a fatal overdose is a prior nonfatal overdose, but we do not have a consistent and timely measure of nonfatal overdoses across the United States,” Gupta said.
He added that inadequate data limits agencies’ abilities to identify emerging trends and effectively target aspects of the drug supply chain.
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