In a recent hearing before Congress, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Scott Gottlieb spoke about the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic and what his agency is doing to address it. While Dr. Gottlieb is not the first to note the massive scale of this crisis, he did bring up one often-overlooked component of its much-needed solution – distinguishing between an opioid addiction and a physical dependence on opioids. Although frequently conflated, differentiating between these two conditions is essential to break the stigma associated with what has proven to be the most effective form of opioid addiction treatment: medication-assisted treatment (MAT) – a treatment approach that combines the use of medications such as methadone and buprenorphine with behavioral counseling.
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 the Center, 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.
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.
For now, the Senate Republican’s health care bill – the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – is defeated. To many Americans, the idea of cutting their health benefits was too much, no matter the rosy picture presented by President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and others supporting the bill.
As the debate over the Better Care Reconciliation Act continues, there has been a pivotal turn in many politicians’ perspectives on health care – even those who previously opposed Obamacare. There may be one reason to explain this shift: the opioid epidemic. There are many pressing issues concerning health care, including increased costs. But the opioid epidemic, which some experts believe may kill over 90,000 Americans a year in the near future, is by far the most significant.
Quest Diagnostics’ annual drug testing data for 2016 revealed the highest rate of positive workforce drug tests in 12 years. Given the persistent opioid epidemic, this may not sound surprising. Except, the data show that the increase in positive drug screens were not attributed to heroin or prescription opioids, where rates remained stable or dropped. Instead, there were increases in positive drug screens for cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamines. Notably, the data reflected that positive drug screens for marijuana were higher than the national average in Colorado and Washington, two states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
One of the major problems of today’s deadly opioid epidemic and persistent addiction crisis is lack of access to effective treatment. One of the major reasons people are unable to get treatment is the apparent lack of coverage by their health insurance plan. This continues to happen despite the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (Parity Act), a federal law that requires equitable insurance coverage for addiction treatment by most health plans.
Beginning on February 3rd, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) required Public Housing Agencies nationwide to implement a “smoke-free” environment. This rule prohibits the use of flammable tobacco products – including cigarettes, cigars, and hookah – inside all indoor areas of public housing units and within 25 feet of buildings. Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) nationwide now have until July of 2018 to implement the new smoke-free policy. Repeated violations will be enforced as a lease violation, meaning residents could be evicted from their homes.
Congress is hotly debating a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and there is significant debate about whether the Republican’s proposed bill is a suitable replacement that will address the problems attributed to the ACA (or, “Obamacare”). Ongoing discussions are focused on who will be harmed by and who will benefit from this proposed bill, called the American Health Care Act. At The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, we are most concerned with how this bill will impact individuals suffering from addiction. Our analysis, explained below in greater detail, concludes that the proposed bill will endanger the lives of people with addiction.
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