New Efforts to Combat Opioid Epidemic
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a number of new actions to address the ongoing epidemic of opioid addiction.
Specific actions include:
- Expanding access to the treatment medication buprenorphine,
- A proposed approach to remove financial incentives for doctors to prescribe opioids based on patient surveys, and
- A requirement for the Indian Health Service prescribers and pharmacists to check state Prescription Drug Monitoring Program databases before prescribing or dispensing opioids for pain.
In announcing the new actions, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said, “The opioid epidemic is one of the most pressing public health issues in the United States. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes.” According to the SAMHSA Opioid Overdose Prevention Toolkit – 2016, there were almost 17,000 prescription drug overdose deaths in 2010 – nearly double since 2001.
Symptoms of opioid overdose include:
- An extremely pale and/or clammy feeling face
- A limp body
- Blue or purple color to the fingernails or lips
- Vomit or gurgling noises
- Unable to be awakened or to speak
- Breathing or heartbeat slows or stops
Recognizing the symptoms can prompt the quick response needed to care for someone in distress.
The federal government has also instituted a National Pain Strategy to reduce the prevalence of chronic pain and need for pain medications.
For more information about the HHS announcement and plans, please see the press release.
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