Preliminary data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show the highest overdose death toll since the 1990s, when the opioid epidemic began. According to preliminary federal data, there was a 29 percent increase in deaths from overdoses during the period between October 2019 to September 2020, compared with the previous 12-month period. More than 87,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses during that time.
Synthetic opioids and illegally manufactured fentanyl were the primary causes of death. Although stimulant drug overdoses, such as methamphetamines are also on the rise. The pandemic was certainly a factor. COVID-19 worsened the overdose trend, after a slight decrease in 2018. The biggest increase in overdoses happened in April and May of 2020 when the strictest COVID-19 measures were being employed. And many treatment programs and support services closed or cut back during that time.
How to Stop the Surge?
The CDC’s recommendations include expanding the supply and use of naloxone and educating the public. And they also call for increasing awareness of the risk of using drugs when alone. Especially during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, as a result of the CDC findings, several dozen concerned health and addiction organizations sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary, Xavier Becerra. The letter requested that he eliminate the X-Waiver requiring doctors to take a day-long training session before being approved to prescribe buprenorphine (one of the FDA approved medications for treating opioid use disorders).
The undersigned organizations write to emphasize the urgency of addressing the ongoing addiction crisis, which has been severely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-two states have reported significant increases in overdose deaths since the onset of the pandemic. To immediately save lives, we urge you to take decisive action to eliminate the X-Waiver, which is required by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000 (DATA 2000) to prescribe
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