Nationally, there were 63,632 drug deaths in 2016, nearly 20 per 100,000 people. That was 21 percent higher than the rate in 2015, when 52,404 died, a federal report found. Drug overdose death rates increased between 2015 and 2016 among all age groups, with the largest jump — 29 percent — among those ages 25-34.
The Sentencing Project released a report Wednesday assailing the grievous lack of medical treatment for addiction in prisons and jails, hours before the newly appointed Bureau of Prisons director was scheduled to testify before the House of Representatives.
The Attorney General tells a news conference that “effective enforcement” should be a priority for new legislation. He also announced a new DEA Division for the Appalachian region, and the appointment of Kellyanne Conway, one of President Trump’s top advisers, to oversee White House initiatives to combat opioid abuse.
The state’s Opioid Prescribing Work Group has recommended that doctors who exceed a new opioid dosage limit for more than half their patients would receive warnings and training. If they don’t bring dosages down, they face removal from the Medicaid program.
Trump’s long-awaited action on the national drug scourge includes no new funding. The New York Times castigated the president as clueless, suggesting that his call for “really big, really great advertising” to steer young people away from drugs recalls the failed “Just Say No” campaign of the Reagan era.
President Trump touted an advertising campaign as “our most important thing” in addressing the opioid crisis. But government and academic assessments of “Just Say No”-style anti-drug messages have shown they don’t work.
Scott Gottlieb, the new head of the Food and Drug Administration, advocates shorter-duration opioid prescriptions and increasing oversight of highly addictive immediate-release opioids to help reduce overdose deaths.
The crisis, which took over 64,000 lives last year, shows no sign of abating, according to a report by the Police Executive Research Forum. The report, based on an April conference of police chiefs and other law enforcement officials, said innovative strategies such as partnerships between police and healthcare providers could prevent the epidemic from spreading.
The president called the opioid problem a “national emergency” just last month. The prospects for funding to deal with it may be limited, in view of a clamor for funding to pay for damages by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Columbia University researchers say that fatally injured drivers who tested positive for prescription opioids rose sevenfold from 1995 to 2015. The principal investigator called it “cause for great concern.”