Every 19 minutes someone dies from an opioid overdose. The rate of opioid overdose rose 14% from 2013 to 2014. If you work in the addiction treatment industry or if you simply keep up with the news out of interest, you have statistics like these memorized. It’s a long-awaited relief that the Obama administration also does, too.
As part of a new package of initiatives to expand addiction treatment services, Obama announced this week that they plan on making it easier for doctors to use anti-addiction drugs, like methadone and buprenorphine, to aid in the prescription opioid and heroin abuse epidemic.
Doctors are currently limited to the amount of patients that can legally treat with buprenorphine, but these new changes would increase that amount by 100%. On the same note there are a limited number of doctors in the US that are even allowed to prescribe the drug (about 30,000). This number has been steadily increasing since October 2015, when states proposed to double it by 2018.
Many people are skeptical about the use of these anti-addiction drugs and they worry that might lead to more issues with drug abuse, but others are speaking out on the success that has been seen in research.
“Buprenorphine and methadone cuts mortality rates (of addicts) in half. … The fundamental line is that we need to keep people alive,” said Caleb Banta-Green, a senior research scientist at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington.
The White House also announced the following initiatives:
- $11 million to increase access to Naloxone.
- Establishing a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force.
- Making mental health and substance abuse benefits available to those enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
- $7 million for the Department of Justice for policing and investigating heroin distribution.
- Guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services for needle exchange programs.
These announcements come after a few huge actions that will also be implemented by federal agencies, such as the CDC issuing new guidelines for doctors prescribing opioids and the FDA’s new requirements that opioid prescription bottles have more detailed warning labels to warn against the dangers of opioid abuse.