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New Preliminary Data Show Hope in Fight Against the Opioid Crisis


Washington, DC – Decades of devastating effects of the opioid crisis have been felt across communities in the United States, and it is estimated 130 lives a day are taken as a result of the epidemic. Last year, Congress stepped in to tackle this crisis with the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. This is the single largest Congressional effort to tackle a drug epidemic. This helps combat the opioid crisis on a number of different fronts from providing resources to improve prevention as well as advance treatment and recovery to giving more authority to fight fentanyl.

Fortunately, a sign of hope from efforts fighting this epidemic came from preliminary data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data show a decline in drug overdose deaths in 2018 – the first in nearly 30 years. Although this is good news, there is a lot more progress needed to finally end this epidemic.

In case you missed it:

Drug Overdose Deaths Drop in U.S. for First Time Since 1990
New York Times

Three decades of ever-escalating deaths from drug overdoses in the United States may have come to an end, according to preliminary government data made public Wednesday. Total drug overdose deaths in America declined by around 5 percent last year, the first drop since 1990.

The decline was due almost entirely to a dip in deaths from prescription opioid painkillers, the medicines that set off the epidemic of addiction that has lasted nearly two decades. Fatal overdoses involving other drugs, particularly fentanyl and methamphetamine, continued to rise.

The overall reduction, reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests some possible relief from an epidemic so severe that it has reduced life expectancy in the country. But the decline was slight enough that experts were questioning whether it would be the start of a trend.

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U.S. drug overdose deaths fell last year

Fewer Americans died from drug overdoses last year than the year before. It’s the first time that number has gone down in almost 30 years.

Yes, but: This progress is both fragile and modest. Overdose deaths fell by about 5% last year, according to provisional data from the federal government. But overdose deaths rose by roughly 316% between 1999 and 2017. There’s still a long way to go, and more than 68,000 Americans still died of overdoses last year.

“Lives are being saved, and we’re beginning to win the fight against this crisis,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement yesterday.

“This crisis developed over two decades and it will not be solved overnight,” Azar said.

Overdoses from prescription opioids are falling, but deaths from fentanyl, cocaine and meth all continued to increase last year.

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US drug overdose deaths fell slightly in 2018

Drug overdose deaths in the United States declined 5.1% in 2018, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

The slight decline in drug overdose deaths marked the first such drop in decades.

“The reason to be hopeful is that for the past 25 years every year we experienced an increase in overdose deaths. This is the first time in 25 years that overdose deaths will not have increased and have come down a little bit,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, co-director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. Kolodny was not involved in the new data.

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U.S. overdose deaths post annual drop for first time in two decades

U.S. overdose deaths dropped last year for the first time in nearly two decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday, in a sign that a nationwide epidemic of drug-related deaths is abating.

About 68,500 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2018, compared with about 72,000 the year prior, a 5% decrease, according to the CDC’s provisional data.

The drop marks the first time that the number of overdose-related deaths has fallen since 1999.

Some physicians describe the decrease as “encouraging,” but not worthy of celebrating.

“Overdose deaths are only one method to measure the epidemic,” said Anna Lembke, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and author of “Drug Dealer, MD – How Doctors Were Duped, Patients Got Hooked, and Why It’s So Hard to Stop.”

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What else can be done? For starters, there were two main bills that were not included in the final package, but both had significant bipartisan support in the House and could still contribute significantly to combating the opioid crisis if Congress takes up these issues again.

  • First would be the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, which was one of the more significant policy changes we could have made. In essence, the change would put the protection of substance use disorder records under HIPAA instead of 42 CFR Part 2.
    • Protecting patients’ confidentiality is of the utmost importance. But substance use disorders must be carefully managed and coordinated. Part 2 poses a serious safety threat to persons with SUD because providers are often unaware of the risks to their patient from multiple drug interactions and co-existing medical problems.
    • The bill passed the House by a vote of 357 to 57 was ultimately dropped by the Senate in final negotiations.
  • Second would be the Stop the Importation & Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues (SITSA) Act, which would have given law enforcement the tools they need to help get illicit synthetic drugs, like fentanyl, off our streets without compromising important public health and research protections.
    • SITSA was included in the House-passed version of H.R. 6, but was ultimately dropped by the Senate in final negotiations.
  • Third the Committee on Energy and Commerce must continue its bipartisan work to help combat the opioid crisis.
    • There are two specific ongoing investigations we’d like to see continued, one into the major opioid manufacturers and another into patient brokering.


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