Last week, the Obama administration announced the launch of a new program initiative to combat the alarming increase in heroin use and prescription opioid misuse in the US. The program will focus on illegal drug trafficking in areas of the country particularly affected by the epidemic, including Appalachia, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington DC, and Baltimore. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently reported a 63% increase in heroin use in the US over the past 10 years. The agency says that 45% of Americans who are addicted to heroin are also addicted to prescription opioids. The CDC’s Vital Signs report additionally noted that both prescription opioid and heroin addiction is growing significantly among the affluent and people with private insurance, 2 groups that historically have had relatively low rates of abuse. The agency writes that people in these groups tend to move on to heroin only after being cut off from prescription opioids.
The administration’s announcement marks a change in approach to the surge in heroin and prescription drug use, from one emphasizing punishment to one driven by treatment. Approximately $2.5 million has been allocated to an effort to couple law enforcement with public health officials in a year-long trial in the target areas of the country. Thirty officials—a mix of drug intelligence officers and health policy analysts—will come together to collect data and find patterns, and study street-level law enforcement. Perhaps one of the team’s most proactive duties will be training first responders to administer the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
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Read about naloxone coprescriptions, here.
Read more about the CDC report and government initiative here.