“Our nation is in crisis, Mr. President.”
On Monday, the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its interim report. The report outlined recommendations to the President to combat this epidemic that is growing stronger by the minute. The commission’s first recommendation is that President Trump declares a state of emergency, quickly.
Every three weeks, the death toll due to drug overdoses is equal to the deaths from the September 11th terror attacks. Abuse of prescription painkillers is more common for millennials than any other generation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that millennials are the most likely to die from heroin. The opioid crisis is a true concern for young Americans, parents, teachers, physicians, and is spreading quickly throughout the country. A study by the American Psychiatric Association found that 1 in 3 millennials knows someone addicted to opioids. The president has brought the epidemic front and center calling for a study into ways the U.S. can combat and treat the opioid crisis.
The most recent data on drug overdoses by the CDC is from 2015, with 2016’s data expected to be released in December 2017. Some states have already reported that 2016 deaths due to overdose are seeing big increases. The CDC’s data estimates that 142 Americans die every day from a drug overdose and expects that number will likely be even higher. The report found that four out of five new heroin users begin with the use of prescription opioids.
“We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” the commissioner’s report said.
Some overprescribing of opioids is done for profit illegally by physicians. However, the commission also found that physicians are largely uneducated on prescribing opioids in medical and dental schools. The report largely attributes the start of an addiction to physicians who are overprescribing opioids. But, it recognizes that in the recent years with physicians cracking down on prescribing opioids, addicts are turning to deadly street opioids like heroin, fentanyl, and cocaine.
The drug, fentanyl, is up to 80 times as powerful as heroin. The commission describes it as the ‘next grave challenge.’ Fentanyl is more deadly than hydrocodone, oxycodone, or even heroin, the report says.
“We are miserably losing this fight to prevent fentanyl from entering our country and killing our citizens,” the report states.
The commission was created by President Trump in March when he signed an executive order to create the president’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. The president selected New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to chair the commission. Members of the committee are Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, former Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy, an expert on the prevention and treatment of mental illness and addiction, and Bertha Madras, a Harvard Medical School psychobiology professor. The commission has met and held listening sessions with members of Congress, all 50 governors, cabinet members, and individual groups specializing in addiction. The 10-page interim report made numerous suggestions, with this report being one of many to follow.
“You, Mr. President, are the only person who can bring this type of intensity to the emergency and we believe you have the will to do so and to do so immediately,” the report said.
Of the recommendations, the commission said declaring a state of emergency is the most urgent.
In addition, the report suggests that the President:
Grant waivers to all 50 states to eliminate barriers to treatment for those with SUD (Substance use disorder). The report says that by eliminating the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion. The IMD exclusion currently prohibits reimbursing inpatient services treating “mental diseases” including substance use disorder for those with coverage through Medicaid. The report argues that by immediately granting waivers, it will be the fastest way to increase treatment across the country.
Less than 20 percent of licensed prescribers have training on how to prescribe opioids safely. Improve training and education for medical and dental schools in the U.S by mandating medical education in opioid prescriptions. In addition, it recommends that Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents also take courses in how to properly treat pain.
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) has helped reduce overdose deaths. The report cites multiple studies that have proven that individuals who receive MAT have had lasting positive results with their addiction. The commission urged that the president create and fund a federal incentive to increase access to MAT.
Naloxone can treat narcotic overdose in an emergency situation. The report urges that law enforcement must be equipped with naloxone.
Currently, Fentanyl is undetectable at the US border. The commission asked the President to fund the DHS, DOJ, FBI, and DEA to allow them to create fentanyl detection sensors.
In order to better track overprescribing, the report asked for funding to allow states to ‘enhance interstate data sharing of state based prescription drug monitoring programs.’ This funding, the report argues, would allow physicians to track prescribing of prescription drugs.
Due to HIPAA laws, there have been many cases where parents are unaware of their child overdosing and some doctors are unaware of the patient’s drug history. The report suggests that doctors, who are treating SUDs, should have more access to information about the patient’s drug addiction history. The report suggests this could be done through the bipartisan bill, Jessie’s Law.
In order to make sure that addicts get the same benefits as other patients, the report asks that President Trump enforce the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. The report argues that SUD treatment should not have treatment limitations.