The National League of Cities (NLC) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) announced the formation of a new joint national task force to address our nation's opioid and heroin abuse crisis. The City-County National Task Force on the Opioid Epidemic is comprised of city and county leaders from across the country who will aim to enhance awareness, facilitate peer exchanges and identify sound policy and partnership solutions. Their work will be featured here.
The great irony of this crisis is that medications originally prescribed to address severe and chronic pain are directly leading to the deaths of thousands of individuals and disrupting the lives of tens of thousands more. In the nation's cities and counties, where ambulances, paramedics, and police officers are assisting drug overdose victims, the costs of addiction are acutely felt and the opportunities to develop solutions are increasing day by day.
There is plenty of data to acquire a more-than-basic understanding of the epidemic in cities and counties.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014 (CDC 2015 Report).
From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales, and substance use disorder treatment admissions related to prescription pain relievers increased in parallel. The overdose death rate in 2008 was nearly four times the 1999 rate; sales of prescription pain relievers in 2010 were four times those in 1999; and the substance use disorder treatment admission rate in 2009 was six times the 1999 rate. (CDC 2011)
In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills. (CDC 2014)
Click on the infographic below for a fullscreen view.
In the face of the unrelenting spiral of overdose and death, government leaders at all levels, health professionals, and law enforcement experts are in agreement that the strategy which waged a "war on drugs" has proven a complete disaster. There is no way to arrest our way out of this epidemic.
Put more succinctly by a team of health professionals:
"Preventing opioid addiction requires strategies that foster more cautious and selective prescribing of opioid pain relievers. However, if prescribing is reduced without also ensuring access to addiction treatment, the opioid overdose death rate may remain at a historically high level and the use of heroin may continue to increase. Coordinated efforts from federal agencies, state and local agencies, health care insurers, and health care providers are required to address the needs of millions of Americans now struggling with this chronic, life-threatening disease."
[The Prescription Opioid and Heroin Crisis: A Public Health Approach to an Epidemic of Addiction, Annual Review of Public Health, Vol. 36: 559-574 (Volume publication date March 2015)]
The task force will take the following actions:
Download the bios for the task force.