On the campaign trail, Donald Trump made tackling America’s opioid addiction and prescription painkiller epidemic a major plank of his platform. And just recently, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency.
“The opioid crisis is an emergency and I’m saying officially right now it is an emergency,” Trump told reporters in Bedminster, New Jersey. “We’re going to draw it up and we’re going to make it a national emergency. It is a serious problem, the likes of which we have never had.”
According to the White House, 142 Americans die of drug overdoses each day. To tackle this epidemic, it urges measures like federal legislation to boost the widespread use of “naloxone,” an opioid dose antidote. Declaring a national emergency should help deliver needed funds and more access to treatment and give the government more flexibility to address the issue more quickly, which is imperative.
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdose deaths among 15-to-19-year-olds more than doubled from 1999 (1.6 per 100,000) to 2007 (4.2). Moreover, overdose deaths spiked nearly 20% between 2014 and 2015.
Prior to the most recent increase, the death rate from drug overdoses actually fell 26% from 2007 to 2014.
Most recently, the majority of drug overdose deaths in 2015 were unintentional. During this period, the death rate for drug overdoses among those aged 15–19 were highest for opioids.
Of all drug overdose deaths among adolescents aged 15–19 in 2015, 80.4% were unintentional, 13.5% were suicide, 5.2% were of undetermined intent, and 0.9% were homicide.
Opioids, which are powerful, highly addictive painkillers, were involved in the majority of cases (65%) in 2015. That said, certain types of opioids, like the synthetic drug fentanyl and heroin, were behind more deaths than natural or semi-synthetic opioids were.
Fentanyl is a major cause for concern because of its potency. Some versions of fentanyl can cause an overdose with just three grams of product. A comparable overdose level of heroin could be about 30 milligrams, or 10 times as much.
The opioid crisis has resulted in a major backlash against both doctors who write prescriptions far too easily and drugmakers and distributors who aggressively market products like “OxyContin.”
On August 15, South Carolina became the latest state to sue Purdue Pharma L.P., the manufacturer of OxyContin, over marketing practices.
“Drug Overdose Deaths Among Adolescents Aged 15–19 in the United States: 1999–2015,” Center for Disease Control and Prevention, August 17, 2017.
“Trump to declare opioid crisis a ‘national emergency,” Fox News, August 17, 2017.
“South Carolina sues OxyContin maker Purdue over opioid marketing,” Reuters, August 15, 2017.