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ACP Backs New White House Plan to Tackle the Opioid Overdose Epidemic

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The 2022 National Drug Control Strategy takes aim at untreated addiction and drug trafficking

May 20, 2022 (ACP) — The American College of Physicians is getting behind the Biden administration's comprehensive new plan to address addiction and help curb the opioid overdose epidemic.

Released in April, the 2022 National Drug Control Strategy takes wide aim at both untreated addiction and drug trafficking to save more lives.

In the 12-month period ending October 2021, 105,752 persons are believed to have died from a drug overdose. This number is a 71% increase from the same period in 2016, and opioids were involved in 66% of these overdose deaths, according to White House statistics.

Calling the new strategy “innovative and unique,” Shari Erickson, ACP chief advocacy officer and senior vice president, said that “it cuts across many areas of society where substance use disorder (SUD) has an impact including the education space by developing addiction curriculum for medical schools and the law enforcement space so officials can better recognize SUD.”

A big part of the policy focuses on improving access to proven harm-reduction strategies like naloxone, which can reverse an overdose in an emergency, so that people at the highest risk can better access this treatment. Those at highest risk include people experiencing homelessness, those who are incarcerated and people who inject drugs.

The new strategy also seeks to remove barriers to buprenorphine prescribing. Currently, clinicians must undergo additional training and get a license from the Drug Enforcement Administration before they can begin to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder. The White House plans to take the necessary steps to remove this requirement, therefore allowing more doctors to prescribe buprenorphine. The White House is also planning to evaluate reimbursement policies for these treatments.

As it stands, just 6.5% of the 41.1 million people who needed treatment for SUD received it at a specialty treatment facility during 2020, according to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“This new policy will help get these medications to patients where they are rather than have to use those facilities,” Erickson said. “It also will address some of the issues related to racial inequities in how substance abuse disorder is treated.”

Prevention has a big role in the administration's efforts, with the overarching goal of expanding substance use prevention among school-aged children and young adults.

The Biden administration is also pushing for criminal justice reforms that include promoting alternatives to prison and identifying racial inequities in investigation, arrest and sentencing data.

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Back to the May 20, 2022 issue of ACP Advocate