The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released its final report November 1. The Commission, which is chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, made a number of recommendations for combating the opioid epidemic. It did not request funding for any of its recommendations.
Over the last decade, abuse of prescription opioids and heroin has surged. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half a million people died from drug overdoses between 2000-2015. Opioids kill 91 Americans each day. Despite this epidemic, a 2016 study found that 91% of opioid overdose survivors are prescribed more opioids.
Opioid Commission Recommendations
The report offers more than 50 recommendations for stemming the tide of opioid abuse. Those include:
- Requiring people who prescribe opioids to show they have received training in their use before they can renew their Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) license to handle prescribed substances. The American Medical Association has expressed concern about requirements that limit prescribing power, arguing that such a rule might conflict with state educational requirements.
- Improving drug monitoring programs to help providers detect signs of addiction in opioid users.
- Instituting and improving drug buy-back programs so that unused opioids do not remain in people’s homes.
- Streamlining federal funding for addiction programs. Under the proposal, each state would only have to file a single grant application. Under the current system, states must file individual applications for each substance abuse grant they seek.
- Urging insurers to cover more non-opioid pain management options, including physical therapy and psychotherapy.
- Initiating a massive public education campaign designed to discourage opioid abuse and educate people about addiction.
- Providing better access to treatment by enforcing the Mental Health Parity Act, which guarantees equal coverage for mental and physical health conditions; promoting evidence-based treatment programs; and increasing reliance on drug courts and diversion programs.
- Expanding access to Naloxone. Naloxone is an overdose reversal drug that can save lives. A 2016 study found that training inmates in the drug’s use could prevent overdoses in jails and prisons.
Controversy About the Commission’s Report
The Report did not release any additional funds to fight opioid addiction, raising concerns about whether and how its recommendations can be implemented. Senate Republicans recently attempted to add $45 billion in funding to a bill designed to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The legislation failed to pass, and critics claimed the funding was inadequate.
The Commission did not recommend marijuana as an alternative pain management technique. Some evidence, including a 2017 study, suggests that marijuana may be a safe pain management alternative.
The Report also declined to recommend safe injection sites. These sites, which are widely used in Canada, offer users a safe place to inject drugs. Proponents argue that these sites reduce the spread of disease and make it easier to promptly intervene when a user overdoses.
President Trump declared opioid addiction a public health emergency in October.
- Bernstein, L. (2017, November 01). White House opioid commission calls for wide-ranging changes to anti-drug policies. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/11/01/white-house-opioid-commission-calls-for-wide-ranging-changes-to-anti-drug-policies/?utm_term=.5d300fa7c898
- Christie, C., Baker, C., Cooper, R., Kennedy, P. J., Madras, B., PhD, & Bondi, P. (2017, November 1). Meeting draft of final report [PDF]. The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.
- Goodnough, A., & Hoffman, J. (2017, November 01). Panel recommends opioid solutions but puts no price tag on them. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/01/health/opioids-trump-commission.html
- Understanding the epidemic. (2017, August 30). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/epidemic/index.html
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