Sometimes it seems as though we’re trying to hold back a tidal wave in trying to curb illegal drug use. Between 1999 and 2019, 840,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) noted in a report released late last month. Another 20 to 30 times that many non-fatal overdoses are believed to occur over the same period.
Such organizations as Informed Families do important work on an individual level, but now the power of the federal government is being enlisted to help.
Last month HHS announced a four-part strategy to reduce accidental overdoses.
- Primary prevention to stop substance abuse before it starts, in part by finding ways to reduce the overprescribing of opioids.
- Harm reduction, designed to keep people who use drugs alive and as healthy as possible.
- Improving access to evidence-based, high-quality treatment strategies that will be immediately available when the person is ready to seek help.
- Recovery support services, including peer support, employment, and housing services.
In addition to the years-long opioid crisis, these measures were also spurred by the recent infiltration of deadly fentanyl into the illegal drug market, which has led to an upsurge in overdose deaths, who are often unsuspecting users.
To indicate the seriousness of its dedication to the problem, the government plans to set aside 10 percent of its 2022 budget for substance abuse and health recovery services.
“With this new strategy, we’re breaking new ground to address the full range of drug use and addiction that can result in overdose and death,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the measures.
The fact that the federal government has finally begun to recognize the scope of the overdose problem is welcome news. Hopefully, together we can finally begin to stem the tide of this crisis.