7 Tools to Fight the Opioid Epidemic

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In the U.S., we have reduced the number of smokers, the number of teen pregnancies, and the number of new HIV/AIDS infections over time. The lessons from these public health challenges can be applied to the present opioid drug epidemic.

Although a comprehensive and longer-term solution to the many issues tied together under the term “substance use disorder” will take holistic and systemic changes, some short-term solutions are having success in cities, towns, and counties all across America today.

Talk About the Disease

Substance use disorder is a disease that needs to be treated like a disease not like a crime. The chorus from health specialists and chiefs of police is that we cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of this epidemic. While we will continue to disrupt the supply of opiates from drug cartels and pill-mills, more work is required on the demand side of this equation. This means focusing on treatment of a disease not on stigmatizing addiction.

President Obama has visited city after city listening to countless stories of opioid addiction. The grim realities of opioid overdose deaths have been given wide audiences thanks to major public broadcasting documentaries. Voices are bring heard. The practice of over prescribing opioids by doctors is already being reduced. Patients are asking about the addictive nature of pain medications. Parents are working to ensure that kids don’t get addicted to pain medications given for sports injuries. Every story told, every emergency proclamation made, and every community conversation held is one more step to draw attention to the issue and bring the nation closer to solutions.

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