Curbing Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis

Friday, July 12, 2019

Since 2006, there has been a steady rise in drug-related deaths in the U.S. with no signs of reversing course. In 2016, referencing the most recent data available, more than 63,000 people died from a drug overdose, and more than half of these drug-related deaths were from opioids. Provisional data suggest that nearly 72,000 overdose deaths occurred in 2017. While there has been an increase in deaths due to prescribed opioids, today a majority of opioid overdose deaths are caused by illicitly manufactured chemicals such as fentanyl (and its derivatives) and extremely potent synthetic substances, such as carfentanil and U-47700, that have little to no known use in humans. In addition to opioids, other novel psychoactive substances, such as synthetic cannabinoids, can cause severe illness, health problems, and death. In both cases, illicitly synthesized drugs appear to produce similar psychoactive effects as licitly synthesized drugs or other traditional drugs of abuse and are effective at eluding routine drug detection methods. The adverse effects of these abused substances on individuals, families, society, and health care costs are devastating. While this public health crisis is recognized and well-publicized, with federal and state governments investing billions of dollars in an attempt to end the opioid epidemic, there is still much progress to be made toward ending these preventable deaths.

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