Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Failed War On Drugs: Opioid Addiction

The United Nations General Assembly gather in New York for the first time since 1998 for a special hearing on the Failed War on Drugs earlier this year. President Nixon began the war on drugs in 1971 proclaiming “Americas public enemy number one in the United States is Drug Abuse”. In order to win the war President Nixon, lead an all-out offense attack on the prohibition of drugs, military intervention, and a foreign aid to reduce the trade of illicit drugs. America punished manufacturers, locked up traffickers and suppliers and treated the drug addicts as criminals. During this process our police departments militarized and expanded and the prison systems ballooned. With all our efforts, the problem is still here today. The War on Drugs has gained much criticism in the past decade, arguing that it has burdened taxpayers without resulting in a significant reduction in addicts abusing drugs. “Several Decades of scientific research have made it clear that our current approach to this drug epidemic simply isn’t working “said Medical Director Dr. Michael Lowenstein. He has observed firsthand how the War on Drugs has failed the very people it was intended to save. “Under our current drug policy, rates of heroin overdose have quadrupled since 1999. Clearly, we can be doing more to help those who are vulnerable to opiate dependence. Addicted patients and their families deserve an updated, scientifically grounded, compassionate approach to global drug policy. This must include access to the best heroin addiction treatment available.”
Overdose deaths from opioids drugs like heroin, oxycodone and hydrocodone continue to be the leading cause of unintentional deaths for Americans, rising 14% from 2013 to 2014. Every 19 minutes someone dies from an opioid overdose.
The United Nations commissioned a 54-page drug report to evaluate the global progress towards the goal of eradicating drug abuse created by the John Hopkins-Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health. The report stated that the existing drug policies are not scientifically grounded and have contributed to excessive use of incarceration. The report also points out the barriers to humane and affordable treatment. The UN report proposed changes to such as access to harm reduction services such as naloxone, or supervised injection sites, and decriminalization of minor drug offenses. Much like President Obamas plan, the UN report calls for expanded access to effective treatments for drug dependence to help drug addicts.
President Obama Plan:
  • On top of expanding access to MAT, the White House announced other initiatives:
  • providing an additional $11 million to increase access to naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug.
  • establishing a Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Task Force.
  • Ensuring that mental health and substance use benefits are offered as medical and surgical benefits are for those enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • A $7 million initiative by the Department of Justice toward policing and investigating heroin distribution.
  • Guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services for federally funded needle exchange programs.
Over the past month, federal agencies have been aggressive in implementing new strategies to help fight the epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new opioid prescribing guidelines. The guidelines, aimed at primary care prescribers, state that opioids should not be considered as first-line therapy for chronic pain and that clinicians should first consider non-opioid pain relievers or non-drug alternatives, such as exercise, meditation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy.

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