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The Administration's Fundamental Flaw on Opioid Addiction: Talk of Progress Is Greatly Exaggerated

October 23, 2018 in Economics

By Jeffrey A. Singer

Jeffrey A. Singer

The White House plans to stage an event this week celebrating
its accomplishments addressing the opioid overdose deaths crisis.
The event will come a year after the President declared
opioid-related overdoses a national public health emergency, and a
little over a week since the Senate passed and sent to the
President’s desk a bill, H.R. 6, aimed at further combatting the problem. But
Congress and the White House have nothing to boast about. The
policies in place for the past several years, and on which the new
legislation generally doubles down, have only served to drive up
the overdose rate while making patients suffer needlessly in the
process.

Sadly, all that Congress
and the White House have to brag about is a policy that is driving
non-medical users to more dangerous drugs and causing desperate
pain patients to turn to the black market or to suicide for relief.
They should refrain from uncorking the champagne.

Last December the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported that the overdose rate increased 21% from 2015 to 2016. This month the CDC
reported provisional numbers showing another
10% increase in 2017. All of this is happening despite federal and
state efforts, using practice guidelines and prescription
surveillance programs, that have led to a drop in high-dose opioid
prescribing of 41% from 2010 to 2016, and another 16% in 2017. Those same policies have
caused heroin and illicit fentanyl (largely smuggled in from Asia employing drug
cartel infrastructure
) to become the predominant causes of opioid-related overdose
deaths as non-medical users migrated over to those cheaper and more
available drugs. Yet the new legislation provides funding to
augment and enhance prescription surveillance programs.

That’s because the opioid overdose crisis was never really about
doctors treating their patients in pain. It has always primarily
been caused by non-medical users accessing drugs through the
dangerous black market that results from drug prohibition. The
overwhelming majority of those overdose victims have multiple drugs in their system when they
overdose. The New York City Department of Health reported in 2016 that three-quarters of all
overdose deaths were either heroin or fentanyl, and 97% of those
overdose victims have multiple drugs onboard – 46% of the time that
drug included cocaine. This hardly fits the profile of a patient
receiving medical treatment for pain.

This should come as no surprise to policymakers. The National
Survey on Drug Use and Health has been reporting for years that less than 25% …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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