New York Magazine reported that 63,000 Americans died of a drug overdose. About 42,200 of last year’s drug deaths were linked to opioids, up from 33,000 the year before. In October, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public-health emergency – but declined to call for a single dollar in new funding to address the crisis. Nothing is being done about it. It is a national tragedy that affects every strata of society.
This epidemic of drug deaths reduced life expectancy in the United States for the second consecutive year — the first time that’s happened since the early 1960s. Beyond the incalculable human toll of all this death, the opioid crisis cost the American economy $504 billion in 2015 alone, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The most effective remedy for opioid addiction, bar none, is medication-assisted treatment (MAT). Under MAT, addicts are provided with methadone and buprenorphine — less powerful opioids that satiate most addicts’ cravings, and arrest their withdrawal symptoms, without inducing heroin’s debilitating, euphoric high. Decades of research, the World Health Organization, CDC, and National Institute on Drug Abuse have all demonstrated MAT’s efficacy. Some studies suggest that the treatment reduces mortality among drug addicts by more than 50 percent. And yet, the therapy is only available in about 10 percent of America’s conventional drug-treatment facilities.