Opioid Overdose Deaths Hit A Record High: Prevention With Harm Reduction

New federal data suggests that America’s drug epidemic is the deadliest it has ever been. According to provisional data published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 100,000 individuals died of drug overdoses during the 12 months ending in April 2021 in the United States. The overdose deaths skyrocketed to 28.5% from the same period a year earlier, breaking a new high record, and just about doubling over the past five years. 

Opioids continue to act as a driving factor of drug overdose deaths. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics discovered, synthetic opioids, essentially fentanyl, caused almost two-thirds, or 64% of all the drug overdose deaths in the same 12 month period mentioned above ending in April 2021, and it was increased by 49% from the year before. Drug overdose deaths have ascended during the pandemic and deaths rose by almost 30% in the last year. 

Experts stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and the upsurge in Fentanyl use have both acted as key contributors to the rising overdose death toll. It was captured by the latest provisional data regarding drug overdose deaths that captured those in May 2020 through April 2021. According to John Hopkins University data, COVID-19 killed nearly 509,000 individuals around that same timeframe. 

Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Nora Volkow, stated to CNN, “What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices. In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those in recovery may relapse. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen and perhaps could have predicted.”

The Rise Of Opioid Overdose Deaths Due To Fentanyl

A stronger and faster-acting drug than natural opiates is Fentanyl and it has been on the rise. The effects of it have been more deadly. The increasing use of synthetic drugs has caught the attention of experts before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic has worsened the problem. International traveling has been limited, and synthetics that are more concentrated and easier to manufacture were more likely structured to sneak across the borders.

Anne Milgrim, Drug Enforcement Administration Administrator said at a White House press briefing, “The US government has seized enough Fentanyl this year to give each American a lethal dose. The overdose epidemic in the US is a “national crisis” that “knows no geographical boundaries, and it continues to get worse.”

It was shown by new federal data that overdose deaths from psychostimulants such as methamphetamine increased remarkably. It increased 48% in the year ending in April 2021 as a comparison to the year before. They accounted for over a quarter of all the overdose deaths in the last 12 month period. 

Even though Fentanyl was once more popular than other methamphetamines on the East Coast than on the West Coast. Volkow stated that both have now been multiplied nationwide. Deaths from prescription pain medication and cocaine also increased as a comparison of last year. 

Opioid Overdose Death Prevention Policy And Pandemic Response

As the country has reopened, and society restores to some form of pre-pandemic normalcy. Many experts have stated individuals will continue to die at very high rates from drug overdoses especially if action is not taken to remarkably improve access to treatment. 

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, medical director of opioid policy research at the Brandeis University Heller School for Social Policy and Management stated, “Even if Covid went away tomorrow, we’d still have a problem. What will have an impact is a dramatic improvement to access to treatment. These are deaths in people with a preventable, treatable condition. The United States continues to fail on both fronts, both on preventing opioid addiction and treating addiction. 

There is a need for President Joe Biden to deliver on his campaign promises to address the pandemic crisis. The US Department of Health and Human Services released a summary of the Biden Administration’s proposal to combat drug overdoses. It includes removing barriers to treatments, as well as federal support for harm reduction strategies and recovery support, and measures directed at addressing opioid prescription practices. 

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released a model law, providing states with an example to pass their type of legislation to improve access to the drug, Naloxone. This drug has reversed opioid overdoses. Dr. Andrew Kolodny stated the following regarding medications including Buprenorphine, “If we want to turn the corner, we have to get to a point where treatment for opioid addiction is easier to access than fentanyl, heroin, or prescription opioids are.”

Beth Connolly, director of the Pew Charitable Trusts substance use prevention and treatment initiative, stated, “The evidence is really clear that using medications to treat opioid addiction disorders saves lives. As we see more and more evidence that (medication) does save lives, that will hopefully reduce stigmatizing and categorizing in favor of supporting individuals.”

The latest estimates from the CDC proposed that drug overdose deaths fit somewhere in between the number of deaths from diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. In 2019, diabetes caused 88,000 deaths and Alzheimer’s disease caused 121,000. As of 2016, drug overdoses have killed as many Americans as gun violence and car accidents combined. Now, drug overdoses cause about twice as many deaths. 

According to the CDC, similarly, in 2019, heart disease was the leading cause of death, killing about 660,000 individuals, and cancer killed 600,000 individuals. It’s important to note that these figures reflect final annual updates, they are not directly comparable to provisional data. 

Preventing Opioid Overdose With Harm Reduction Technique

It is so important to have harm reduction to prevent overdoses because it acts as a set of practical ideas and strategies all aimed at reducing negative outcomes related to drug use.

What Is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction demands that policies and interventions are designed to serve individuals who engage in drug use to reflect the specific community and individual needs. Harm reduction is also a social justice movement built on respect for and a belief in the rights of individuals who utilize drugs. It includes a range of strategies that incorporates the following:

  • Meeting individuals who utilize drugs “where they are at”
  • Addressing conditions of drug use along with the use itself 
  • Managed use
  • Abstinence
  • Safer use

There is not a universal formula for implementing harm reduction nor is there a universal definition for it. Below are the principles of harm reduction techniques, and how they can help prevent relapse and death from overdose. 

Harm Reduction Principles

  1. Being able to accept, for better or for worse, that illicit and licit drug use is a huge part of our world. It decides to work on minimizing harmful effects rather than condemning or ignoring them. 
  2. Understanding the multifaceted and complex phenomenon that ultimately encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe use to total abstinence. Being able to acknowledge that a few ways of utilizing drugs are safer than other drugs.
  3. Establishes quality of community life, individual life, and well-being. It is not necessarily the end of all drug use but the criteria for successful policies and interventions.
  4. It calls for the non-coercive and non-judgemental provision of resources and services to individuals who use communities in which they live to help them in reducing attendant harm and to those who use drugs.
  5. Ensures that individuals who utilize drugs and those with a history of drug use normally have a real voice in policies designed to serve them and in the creation of programs.
  6. Affirms individuals who use drugs (PWUD) themselves as the main agents of seeking to empower PWUD to support each other in strategies that meet their actual conditions of use, to share information, and reduce the harms of their drug use.
  7. Recognizes that the realities of class, poverty, social isolation, racism, sex-based discrimination, past trauma, and other social inequalities affect both individual’s capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm and an individual’s vulnerability to it. 
  8. Do not attempt to ignore or minimize the tragic and real danger and harm that can be connected with illicit drug use.

How Can Sana Lake Help Those Struggling With Opioid Addiction?

Sana Lake can help those struggling with opioid addiction by helping them to begin the medically-assisted detox (MAT) process. We offer a complete comprehensive medical drug detox approach under the professional supervision of our medical and mental professionals. Our members will remain in observation under the care of our medical professionals. 

Recovery Awaits At Sana Lake

One of our main goals is to ensure that our members’ safety and comfort level is increased throughout their medical detox process. We are there in case of any painful symptoms or potential medical complications that may occur. If you are struggling with a substance use disorder and desire freedom, contact us today.

References:

https://www.cnn.com/2021/11/17/health/drug-overdose-deaths-record-high/index.html

https://harmreduction.org/about-us/principles-of-harm-reduction/