Epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S.A.

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Drug deaths have surged in nearly every U.S. county, reaching a new peak in 2014 (NYTimes.com: How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there has been a 200% increase in the rate of opioid related overdose deaths since 2000 in the United States. We believe that the prescribing practices and protocols for identifying patients most at risk of developing an opioid dependence need to be improved. By identifying and improving the structure of the current practice of prescribing pain killers, perhaps there will be a decline in those who continue on to illicit heroin use and ultimately, a decline in the number of opioid overdose deaths in the United States.


On February 12, 2015, a bill was introduced to the Senate under the title, S.524 – Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act that directly addressed this issue. This bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services to convene a Pain Management Best Practices Inter-Agency Task force to develop best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication, and a strategy for disseminating such best practices. This legislation will expand, though enhanced grant programs, prevention and education efforts, expand access to the overdose-reversing drug Naloxone, support alternative treatment in lieu of incarceration, strengthen the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and support expansion of the use of evidence-based treatment medications.

The bill would help channel further funding and improvement of standing programs such as Alliance of States with Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and Department of Justice – Office of Justice Programs.


Addiction is an illness and should be addressed as a public health issue, instead of being dealt with as a crime. Funds should be made available to educate the public, improve naloxone availability, and towards research to develop medications for treatment of opioid addiction. We also believe physicians need to be part of the solution and strengthening the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program will help curb over-prescribing. Support the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act by reaching out to your local representatives!


2 Responses to “Epidemic of opioid overdose deaths in the U.S.A.”

  1. thestickyword Says:

    It would be interesting to know why there has been such a leap in use over recent years, beyond overt prescribing. My understanding is that heroin has flooded the market in forms not requiring use of needles, and that opiods are now less expensive than other softer drugs in many areas.

  2. anudevabhaktuni Says:

    Thank you for your blog post! This is such an interesting and important topic to discuss. As a medical provider, I have seen how pervasive the problem of opioid drug abuse is firsthand. When I was working in the emergency room, I was very frustrated by the varying prescribing practices of the physicians I worked with. Although there are many factors involved in opioid drug abuse and the associated deaths, I believe prescribers play a large role in fueling the problem and there needs to be more discretion in the use of these dangerous drugs. I believe providers should have some accountability when prescribing these medications. I am specifically interested in Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs. I believe this is an easy way to track prescribing patterns of providers and also track the use of prescription opioids among patients. Currently, these monitoring programs are state-run electronic databases. This doesn’t address the issue of doctor shopping across state lines when abusing prescription opioids, which is common. Because of this issue, I think a national prescription drug monitoring program should be considered to truly address this problem or all state PDMPs should be linked together. http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/healthcare/241243-a-national-prescription-drug-database-to-combat-opioid.
    I am glad to see that the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act has been introduced to the Senate because it is important we re-evaluate our prescribing practices and develop best practices to combat this devastating epidemic.

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