Stories surrounding opioid addiction tend to be overwhelmingly negative and dire, often leaving people with little hope. This week – which President Obama proclaimed as Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week – I’d like to shift the conversation and talk about how one state has taken extraordinary measures in responding to the opioid epidemic.
Every two minutes a person is injured due to drinking and driving in America. This frightening statistic reveals that there’s still much work that needs to be done to prevent those who drink from getting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. In fact, an old technology may very well help promote safer driving practices. Politicians are now calling for new laws that require those convicted of a driving under the influence (DUI) offense to equip their vehicles with devices that can detect alcohol on their breath.
Lack of health insurance coverage for addiction treatment is a dangerous reality for many individuals across the nation. Our recent review of the 2017 EHB benchmark plans, which establish the minimum level of coverage for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans sold in each state, reveals that the ACA’s promise of greatly expanding access to addiction treatment through health insurance coverage is not being met.
Injection drug use presents a special challenge for public health – those who inject drugs become severely addicted, often avoid the health care system, and are at high risk for multiple negative health outcomes, including infection, overdose and death. Some solutions fall under the umbrella of harm reduction, a set of strategies targeted at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug addiction. One harm-reduction approach being considered is called a supervised injection facility (SIF) – a legally sanctioned setting where individuals can inject previously obtained drugs (such as heroin and other opioids) under medical supervision.
As many people across the U.S. continue to struggle with opioid addiction, several lifesaving medicines remain out of reach because of their cost or availability. In 2010, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Vivitrol – a once-per-month injection that blocks the effects of opioids and reduces cravings. Vivitrol is an injectable form of the medication naltrexone, which is taken orally several times per week, and has been used to treat opioid addiction for over 20 years.
Nearly three decades after the federal government first banned funding for needle exchange programs, Congress has decided to change course. In December 2015, a congressional budget deal was approved and signed by President Obama to fund most core aspects of needle exchange programs.
In December 2015, the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) released a paper on supportive housing as a component of a strategy to manage the heroin crisis for the chronically homeless. CSH estimates there is a need for over 30,000 new supportive housing units across New York State to reverse the ever-increasing numbers of people experiencing homelessness. About 35-40% of chronically homeless people suffer from severe substance use disorders.
As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate the nation, with overdose deaths hitting a record level in 2014, drug abuse and addiction are finally a political priority. President Obama proposed $1.1 billion in new funding and identified substance abuse as an opportunity for bipartisan agreement.
It often surprises people to learn that the alcohol industry is mostly self-regulated when it comes to advertising. There are relatively few laws at the federal level regulating alcohol advertising, and at the state level the laws vary. Instead, advertising by the alcohol industry is largely governed by voluntary standards set by the three alcohol-related trade associations: the Beer Institute, the Wine Institute, and the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
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