Feds Move to Stop Opioid- and Heroin-Related Overdose, Death

Pam Harrison

March 27, 2015

A targeted initiative aimed at reducing prescription opioid- and heroin-related overdose, dependence, and death has been announced by the US Health and Human Services (HHS).

"Opioid drug abuse is a devastating epidemic facing our nation," HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement.

"I have seen firsthand in my home state of West Virginia, a state struggling with this very real crisis, the impact of opioid addiction," she added.

"That's why I'm taking a targeted approach to tackling this issue, focused on prevention, treatment, and intervention."

HHS efforts are aimed at three priority areas. They include training and educational resources to help healthcare professionals make informed prescribing decisions to address opioid overprescribing.

These resources will include updated guidelines for prescribers and will establish new opioid prescribing guidelines for chronic pain.

Efforts will also be directed toward facilitating prescription drug monitoring programs to support data sharing for safe prescribing.

These efforts will be supported by increasing investment in state-level prevention interventions that will help track opioid prescribing and support appropriate pain management.

Secretary Burwell also plans to increase the use of naloxone and to support the development of other lifesaving drugs to reduce the number of deaths associated with prescription opioid and heroin overdose.

These efforts will include the implementation of a prescription drug overdose grant program for states to buy naloxone and train first responders on its use.

Plans are also in place to expand the use of medication-assisted treatment, or MAT.

MAT is a comprehensive effort that combines the use of medication with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat substance use disorders.

A grant program is also planned to improve access to MAT through education, training, and purchase of MAT medications for the treatment of prescription opioid and heroin addiction.

These investments are all part of the President's FY 2016 budget to intensify efforts to reduce opioid misuse and abuse, including $133 million in new funding.

Deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily during the past 2 decades and currently outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents in the United States.

Among drug overdose deaths recorded in 2013, approximately 37% involved prescription opioids.

Deaths related to heroin use have also risen sharply since 2010, with a 39% increase between 2012 and 2013.

HHS Press Office. March 26, 2015.


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