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Welcome to The Buzz—Center on Addiction's online conversation about addiction and substance use.

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More than two million Americans are addicted to opioids, ranging from the illegal drugs heroin and fentanyl to the prescription medications OxyContin and Vicodin, yet eight times as many people misuse or are addicted to a substance that is more widely available and easier to access. This substance is alcohol. Despite the fact that it has largely retreated from public consciousness in the context of the current opioid epidemic, research shows that rates of alcohol misuse and addiction are on the rise.

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Our nation is in dire need of effective strategies to address the opioid epidemic. With this in mind, we published Ending the Opioid Crisis: A Practical Guide for State Policymakers. The goal of this guide is to replace misinformation and stigma with research-based facts and practical, health-based solutions in order to help state policymakers understand how they can implement a public health approach and solve this crisis.

Here, Lindsey Vuolo, JD, MPH, associate director of health law and policy at Center on Addiction, and lead author on this report shares additional thoughts about why this guide matters, what is wrong with a punitive approach and the important role states can play in ending the opioid epidemic.

Dr. Roy is an internal medicine physician board certified in addiction medicine and a clinical assistant professor at the New York University Department of Population Health. As the former Chief of Addiction Medicine for New York City jails, including Rikers Island, she oversaw addiction treatment and recovery efforts for the city's incarcerated men and women. Previously, she was on faculty at Harvard Medical School and a primary care doctor to Boston's homeless population, among whom the leading cause of death was drug overdose.

Following her participation in our Addiction Speaker Series, we interviewed Dr. Roy to learn more about drug addiction as it relates to the criminal justice system.

President Trump indicated that he will declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency in a “major announcement” next week.  While the president called the epidemic a national emergency in August, he has not yet issued a formal declaration, leaving many to wonder: if a national emergency is declared, what type of approach will the president actually take?  Will the president embrace the public health approach outlined in the Surgeon General’s report or revert to a “war on drugs” strategy?  Unfortunately, signals from the president’s administration have been conflicting.

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In 2016, approximately 2.1 million Americans over the age of 11 suffered from addiction to opioids such as the prescription pain medications OxyContin and Vicodin or the illegal drug heroin. Yet, 11.8 million people – nearly six times as many – reported misusing opioids, primarily prescription medications.

Although it does not receive the same media attention as addiction – clinically known as opioid use disorder - this startling figure highlights a serious yet often overlooked problem within our society: the issue of opioid misuse.

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