Taking the National Opioid Epidemic Head On

After decades of struggle in managing the abuse of opioids in the U.S., change is underway at the highest levels of government. There is a great deal of support for a new approach to opioids from the highest levels of the federal government to grass-roots efforts at the state and local levels, a movement we are proud to be a part of.

The Drug Abuse Problem in America in 2016

More than 28,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses in 2014 – a record high.

New data released from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that the costs are high in more ways than one. “The adverse health effects of the misuse of prescription opioids, including abuse, dependence, and overdose are a well-documented public health problem,” the report reads. “Prescription opioids account for approximately 70% of fatal prescription drug overdoses,” according to Curtis Florence of the CDC. $78.5 billion a year is the estimated economic burden associated with the epidemic, not to mention the overwhelming human cost to not only addicts, but their families and communities. We’ve covered the true costs of the epidemic in our series on drug policy reform.

Although 21.5 million people aged 12 or older met the DSM-IV criteria for alcohol or illicit drug dependence or abuse, only an estimated 2.3 million received substance use treatment in the past year.

One of the biggest contributors to the spikes in overdoses and death is the growing use of fentanyl, which we wrote about in depth recently. A fentanyl pill may look and cost the same as hydrocodone but requires only a fraction of the narcotic to give users an even stronger reaction.  

High-Profile Advocacy + Opioids Abuse Spotlighted in the Media

Recently, during National Recovery Month, a presidential proclamation was made for Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, with President Obama saying, “We pause to remember all those we have lost to opioid use disorder, we stand with the courageous individuals in recovery, and we recognize the importance of raising awareness of this epidemic.”  

As part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, members of the president’s cabinet and federal agencies focused on the work being done across the government and announced new efforts to address the national prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has been advocating for more physician education too. This past summer he sent letters to the nation’s prescribers asking them to be more vigilant about prescribing opioids and to clearly warn their patients about their addictive capabilities. He spoke to CNBC about his efforts in August.

In December 2015, the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report presenting the state of the science on substance use, addiction, and health was announced. The upcoming report “will examine the health effects of drug and alcohol misuse from the perspectives of prevention, treatment, recovery, neurobiology, and delivery of care.”

The U.S. DEA has reduced the amount of almost every Schedule II opiate and opioid medication that may be manufactured in the United States in 2017 by 25 percent or more. The level of hydrocodone will be 66 percent of last year’s level.  

In case you missed it, MTV created a powerful documentary about opioid addiction, partially shot on site in Washington D.C. as part of Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week in September 2016. In the documentary, executive producer, multi-platinum artist and recovering addict Macklemore and President Obama engage in a discussion about the increasing severity of opioid addiction in the U.S.

In their videotaped conversation, Macklemore talks about his experience with prescription drug addiction, while Obama outlines steps towards a solution. “The good news is that awareness is starting to rise and I’ll be honest with you, part of what is starting to change is the opioids crisis is getting into communities that are suburban, that are relatively well to do, rural communities, white communities,” Obama tells the Seattle rapper. “People’s kids who are being affected are folks who have a voice and they’re starting to recognize that generally how we’ve dealt with the reduction of addiction and drugs has oftentimes been counterproductive and that we need to shift a lot more resources into treatment.”

Prescription For Change is a plain-talking, one-hour documentary with real users of opioids and heroin and those in recovery that explores the rapidly growing opioid addiction epidemic with facts and the stories of young people who have faced addiction and now recovery. See the video, which first aired on October 11, 2016 on MTV.


Unprecedented Support for Recovery

Rewind to October 4, 2015 when tens of thousands of people went to Washington D.C. for the first-ever Facing Addiction Concert, which raised awareness for addiction and recovery. It was the first time that a diverse group that included major musicians, politicians, athletes, journalists and authors came together in support of the 45 million Americans and their families affected by addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, The Fray, Jonathan Butler, John Rzeznik and Tommy Sims performed. See a video clip.  

Another event is planned for spring of 2017 with a similarly diverse and exciting lineup of artists.

South by Southlawn, held on October 3, 2016, was the first-ever White House festival of ideas, art, and action. SXSL, inspired by South by Southwest, brought together creators, innovators, and organizers who work to improve the lives of their fellow Americans and people around the world.

It brought the topic of recovery to the national stage again. Ryan Hampton, a friend of Infinite Recovery, advocacy leader and creator of the Addiction Across America documentary series, went to the White House for South by South Lawn to advocate for recovery. He watched President Obama post a huge “To Do” call to the giant action board on the South Lawn and Hampton added his own “to do” post-it to lend his voice and help end the addiction crisis. Hampton also met Macklemore shortly after the taped interview with the President for MTV. Read Ryan’s Facebook posts from early October to learn more about what he witnessed.

In early 2016, Ryan publicly disclosed his decade-old struggle with heroin and prescription medications, along with his journey in recovery, in an effort to advocate for reform on a national public policy level. Ryan currently serves as the Los Angeles outreach lead for Facing Addiction, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the addiction crisis in America. He has previously worked with multiple non-profits across the country and has served in a staff capacity for various political campaigns.

One of the most powerful ways Ryan has been raising awareness for the drug problem in America is his documentary series, which you can watch in full on YouTube. The series features he and his best friend Garrett Hade traveling from California to Philadelphia where Mr. Hampton served as an elected delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Along the way, they talked with people in the Facing Addiction Action Network about the urgency of making addiction and recovery a top priority for both major political parties in this election year. Ryan interviewed policymakers, activists, faith leaders and other influencers from across the political spectrum for the series – Infinite Recovery’s founder Michael Dadashi even makes an appearance.

Read more about the Facing Addiction action agenda and get involved.

The Next Chapter – Potential For New Treatments

Some scientists think it is time to give opioids a second chance, and they are working on new painkilling drugs that do not carry the dangerous side effects of common opioids. Three compounds are now being developed bind to opioid receptors, the specific proteins found in the brain, spinal cord and other organs in the body, similar to morphine. But unlike previous generations of drugs, these may activate a different “signaling pathway” or  route through which information flows from one molecule to another. There is potential for these new opioids to carry lower risk of addiction and hopefully, lower the death rates. We will follow these developments and share them with you in this blog.

Infinite Recovery is following the opioid epidemic closely. We are a proud supporter of Facing Addition and like-minded activist organizations. Our biggest contribution to the cause of overcoming addiction is sharing the proof of long-term recovery. For more information about Infinite Recovery and our daily work, see our new website. We offer a 24/7 confidential hotline at (844) 206-9063 and our admissions team is available online.

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