Confronting the epidemic of drug overdose deaths in our communities



The spiking mortality numbers are affecting the entire nation

drug overdose death epidemic

As America’s drug overdose and death epidemic continues to impact communities of every size in every corner of the country, new challenges have emerged.

In 2021, more than 107,000 people died from drug-related overdoses, according to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the bulk of which were from illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which shows up in fake pills, methamphetamine and cocaine.

Since its founding in 2014, the American Medical Association (AMA) Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force has brought together medical societies and practicing physicians to develop and implement strategies that can help end this epidemic. The task force’s recommendations include urging physicians to enhance their education as well as advocate for comprehensive care for patients in pain and for those with a substance use disorder. The AMA also strongly urges states to update laws to make the opioid overdose reversal medication naloxone more readily available, decriminalize fentanyl test strips, and take other harm reduction initiatives to save lives from overdose.


When it comes to helping patients with a substance use disorder (SUD) so they can lead satisfying, productive lives, the science shows what works: medication prescribed by a physician or dispensed at Opioid Treatment Programs, combined with behavioral counseling and other services.

Despite certain positive trends and clear science, of the 40.3 million people nationwide with a substance use disorder, 93% receive no treatment, according to federal officials. A 2022 report from the U.S. Department of Labor found that health insurance companies regularly violate state and federal laws designed to provide coverage for substance use disorders and mental illness. Health insurance companies also continue to but up barriers to accessing medications for opioid use disorders (MOUD) and deny care to patients with pain—or make it so expensive that patients cannot access care.

“No community has been—or will be—spared the pain of this epidemic. The spiking mortality numbers—with young people and Black and Brown Americans dying at the fastest growing rates—add yet another urgent call to remove health inequities from the health care system. We know policymakers have not exhausted all remedies. Until we have, we must keep advocating for humane, evidence-based responses,” said Bobby Mukkamala, M.D., chair of the AMA Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force.

The AMA stresses that while physicians are leading in areas where they can have an influence, they cannot end the epidemic alone. To combat the issue at the state and national level, the organization has issued a national “roadmap” to policymakers and regulators focused on these specific actions:
  • Remove barriers to evidence-based care for patients with an SUD. This includes removing prior authorization, step therapy and dosage caps for MOUDs, continuing federal flexibilities for take-home medication for opioid treatment programs, continuing audio-visual and audio-only telehealth options for patients to begin treatment, and removing regulations that prevent most physicians from being able to prescribe MOUDs to their patients.
  • Take immediate steps to protect families by focusing on increasing access to evidence-based care rather than using punishment and the threat of family separation for persons with an SUD who are pregnant, peripartum, postpartum and parenting.
  • Enforce laws that require mental health benefits to be on par with other health benefits, thereby broadening access to treatment related to mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Pharmacy chains, health insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers should remove arbitrary barriers to opioid therapy as well as ensure patient access to affordable, accessible non-opioid pain care.
  • Patients and physicians should have conversations about safe storage and disposal of opioids and all medications; and increase access to naloxone to patients at risk of overdose.
  • Develop and implement systems to collect timely, adequate and standardized data to identify at-risk populations, fully understand polysubstance drug use, and implement public health interventions that directly address removing structural and racial inequities.
To learn more about efforts to end the drug overdose and death epidemic, visit end-overdose-epidemic.org.

(StatePoint) 
PHOTO SOURCE: (c) ArLawKa AungTun / iStock via Getty Images Plus



Other articles by HVP News Reporters


  • Safety tips to follow when using gas or charcoal grills

    Following safety procedures when grilling can reduce injury and save lives

    Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer for many New Yorkers, and with it, the start of the grilling season. As New Yorkers get ready to fire up their grills this Memorial Day weekend, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) reminds consumers to consider some important safety tips for safe summer barbecues. read more »
  • Tips to help avoid moving scams

    Be aware of deceptive business practices

    For this week’s “Tuesday’s Tips,” the New York Department of State’s Division of Consumer Protection provides consumers with important tips to avoid scams when moving. Moving your belongings can be a stressful process, and unfortunately scammers use these situations to defraud consumers out of thousands of dollars by using deceptive business practices. read more »
  • 4 things parents and youth athletes should know about concussions

    Every person and every concussion is different

    Despite the attention drawn to the topic of concussions over the past decade, it can be difficult to find readily available answers about what parents and young athletes should do after sustaining a concussion. read more »
  • How to keep feet and ankles in tip top shape this summer

    Experts offer tips for you and your family

    Summer fun and chores alike come with potential hazards to feet. According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, here’s how to protect feet and ankles from the most common seasonal hazards. read more »
  • Confused by nutrition labels? You’re not alone

    How to read the packaging on your groceries

    Shopping for groceries can be like navigating a maze: so many choices in every aisle, food packages covered in marketing claims, and little direction on what is truly healthy and what isn’t. People want to make healthy choices for themselves and their families, but how can they when the information available to them can be so overwhelming? read more »
  • Thoughtful gift ideas for Mother's Day

    Make your mom smile on her special day

    To show your mom just how much she means to you, choose a Mother’s Day gift that reflects her interests and passions. As you’re looking for the perfect gift, consider these thoughtful ideas that will touch her heart. read more »
  • How high-speed internet can help spark community vitality

    Let's get internet everywhere

    Most Americans consider high-speed internet an essential household service. Yet in rural America, an estimated 25% of the population doesn’t have broadband access, limiting their economic growth and access to career opportunities and resources such as education and health care. read more »
  • Girls on the Run launches new curriculum

    Meeting the needs of today's girls

    Girls on the Run International (GOTRI), a nationally recognized nonprofit that empowers young girls, has launched its new research-based curriculum intentionally designed to meet the needs of today's girls. Entitled Hello, Superstar!, the innovative curriculum helps girls build the confidence to be themselves through meaningful and engaging lessons and activities that keep them moving. read more »
  • From awareness to action: Learning.com's commitment to supporting healthy relationships with technology for kids

    Learning.com shares resources aimed at creating positive digital experiences for children

    As the world observes Mental Health Awareness Month this May, Learning.com, a leading provider of digital literacy solutions, is taking proactive steps to address a pressing issue: the need for young learners to develop healthy relationships with technology. Recognizing that banning technology isn't the solution, Learning.com is engaging educators and parents in the conversation and providing free tools and resources during the month of May aimed at supporting the creation of positive digital experiences for children. Through an informative webinar with experts in the field on May 21, Learning.com will foster discussions that aim to help students build healthy relationships with technology. read more »
  • 4 trends showing mental health is a continued challenge for Americans

    People with outward appearances of success, productivity and happiness often still deal with internal struggles. Mental health challenges continue to affect Americans, with nearly 3 of 4 (73%) U.S. adults reporting struggles with mental health in 2023. read more »