Title: What Can the Federal Government Do to Fight the Opioid Epidemic?
Only ten percent of Americans who need opioid addiction treatment are receiving it, despite the sad fact that over 59,000 people died of opiate-related causes in 2016 alone. Something has to be done, which is why the opioid epidemic has recently been declared a national public health emergency.
What can the federal government do to fight the current opioid epidemic? Some of the following measures outlined by Addictions.com would be covered under a public health emergency, but some would require the involvement of more aspects of the government than just the Department of Health and Human Services.
- More money and resources should be applied in states that suffer the greatest death toll due to opioid addiction. States like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio need additional attention, funding, and manpower.
- The hiring process for healthcare workers qualified to combat the opioid crisis should be accelerated.
- Naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal drug that can actually turn an overdose around while it is happening, should be made available without a prescription, and in a large supply nationwide. This would allow the lifesaving drug to be available for EMTs, law enforcement, and individuals and families who are directly at risk of the heartbreak of opioid overdose fatality.
- Additional funds could be made available to increase security at U.S. borders to slow or stop the illegal trafficking of heroin and illicitly manufactured painkilling drugs.
- The stigma of addiction needs to be removed to encourage more people to get treatment, and to ensure that the treatment is more effective. The punitive attitude towards opioid addiction that results in nonviolent drug offenders being sentenced to jail time instead of addiction treatment not only adds to the shame and stigma associated with substance use disorders, it also makes some healthcare workers less effective because they, too, are vulnerable to a falsely moralistic view of drug use.
- Additional funding for addiction treatment would help the thousands of Americans who avoid getting treatment due to financial concerns to get the care they so desperately need. More affordable treatment options, grants for qualifying patients, and improved insurance coverage and access are just a few of the ways to get more people into opioid addiction treatment programs.
- Opiate-addicted individuals who live in areas that are too rural or isolated to practically allow for physical access to opioid addiction treatment doctors should be allowed to get the treatment they need through telemedicine.
- Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) combines therapies like counseling with pharmacological interventions like buprenorphine or methadone to treat withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. The medication component of MAT is regarded with suspicion by some people who mistakenly see it as replacing one addiction with another. Educational efforts can help correct this sort of misapprehension, as can requiring doctors in federal healthcare settings to provide opioid addiction treatment medications.