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The opioid crisis was recently declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump, following a recommendation from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. With this announcement, the administration can waive federal rules to allow states and cities more flexibility in addressing the crisis and also mobilize the federal government to help state and local governments in need.

The President’s Commission’s recommendations include mandates for physician education, encouragement of medication-assisted treatment, increased availability of the overdose reversing drug naloxone, and increased federal assistance for patients undergoing addiction treatment. Naloxone is a medication that rapidly reverses opioid overdose by binding to opioid receptors and blocking the effects of opioids.

Prior to the announcement, at least six states had already declared the opioid crisis an emergency, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia. According to a statement from the Drug Enforcement Agency, more states are mandating prescription drug monitoring programs to help lower the number of opioid prescriptions.

Arizona has allowed state officials to receive daily reports on overdoses and to tap into a public health emergency fund to train law enforcement officers to use naloxone. Alaska has also made moves to expand the use of naloxone, and Massachusetts has made prescription monitoring mandatory for physicians and pharmacies while also allowing first responders to carry and administer naloxone.

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States are hoping to receive assistance in the form of extra grants, technical support, and manpower to start new programs and supplement programs already in place.

Image Source: Drew Angerer 

There are now nearly 100 deaths per day from opioids and forecasts suggest that the annual death toll from opioids will continue to climb. According to a Vital Signs report from the Centers for Disease Control, overall opioid prescriptions have declined since 2010, but the amount of opioids prescribed in 2015 were still high “enough for every American to be medicated around the clock for three weeks.”

Unfortunately, the opioid crisis is far-reaching, affecting large spans and far corners of the country, and the actual problems and solutions will vary between states and counties. Different approaches will have to be designed based on local laws and will require coordination between the state, local government, and community providers. In addition, the opioid epidemic has developed over a long period of time, and it will likely take even more time to fully address the crisis and coordinate an effective solution.

Featured Image Source: Marco Verch

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