FIL – On 26 June 2018, file photo, secretary of health secretary Alex Azar talks during a Senate Committee hearing…
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP
WASHINGTON (AP) – The number of American drug doses has passed to deaths after years of relentless increases driven by the opioid epidemic, said health expert Alex Azar Tuesday, warned that is too early to declare victory.
“We are so far from the end of the epidemic, but maybe at the end,” Azar said at a health event sponsored by the Milken Institute tank.
Confronting opioid epidemic has been the rare problem of reconciling Republicans and Democrats in a politically divided nation. A bill giving great funding for treatment was handed over by former President Barack Obama. More money followed earlier this year under President Donald Trump. And tomorrow, Trump is expected to sign bilateral legislation that passed this month, which increases access to treatment, among other steps.
Over 70,000 people died of drugs overdose last year according to preliminary numbers released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Summer – an increase of 10 percent from 2016. Health and Human Services – Azar Heads Department – plays a central role in government response.
In his speech, Azar suggested that several efforts to get the epidemic under control pay off. He ticked statistics showing an increase in treatment with drugs such as buprenorphine and naltrexone. There is solid evidence supporting drug treatment when used in conjunction with counseling and ongoing support. He also noted much wider access to drug-drugoxox overdosage and a documented reduction in the number of people who abused prescription opioids, as doctors take greater caution when prescribing.
Azar said it towards the end of last year and by the beginning of this year, the number of deaths “started plateau”. Azar does not indicate that death is falling, but notes that they seem to rise slower than previously seen.
Earlier this month, CDC released numbers – even preliminary – showed a slowdown in overdose deaths by the end of 2017 and the first three months of this year. From December to March, these figures show that the increase in the last 12 months has decreased from 10 percent to 3 percent according to the preliminary CDCs.
Despite the decline, the nation is still in the midst of the most deadly drug overdose epidemic in its history. Opioids were involved in most of the deaths and killed nearly 48,000 people last year.
While prescription opioid and heroin indices seem to level out, deaths involving fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamine are on its way. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is much more powerful than heroin, used as an additive in street drugs.
Advocates of people struggling with addiction say they do not think the crisis will be solved quickly or easily. “Although we begin to mitigate opioid deaths, we still have a very important problem in the country with addiction, and with hopelessness and despair as many communities feel,” said Chuck Ingoglia, vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health.
In President Barack Obama’s last year on duty, his administration secured a commitment to expand treatment and Congress gave $ 1 billion in contributions to states. Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency. Two major bills of finance have gone under his watch. While Trump received headlines with his call to use the death penalty against major drug traffickers, his administration has been based on the treatment method Obama favored.
The medicaid enlargement in Obama’s affordable care team has also played an important role and pays for low-retrieval adults to enter treatment. A recently analyzed Associated Press analysis showed that states that extended Medicaid spend more consciously on their new opioid contributions from Congress and go beyond the basics of treatment for people in crisis. Trump tried to lift the Medicaid expansion, but failed.
Proponents for treatment say they are pleased that more and more addiction is considered to be a disease and not a sign of moral weakness. But they say that the United States has a long way to build what they call an “infrastructure for care”, a system that includes prevention, treatment and recovery.
In an interview with The Associated Press this summer, a CDC expert said that overdose death numbers seem to be moving for the better, but it’s too early to draw concrete conclusions.
Month-to-month data shows a reduction in the number of deaths, says Bob Anderson, a senior statistician with the National Center for Health Statistics. These numbers, however, are considered preliminary because the death tests have not been completed in any case.
“At this point, we seem to have peaked and we can begin to see a decline,” says Anderson. “This reminds me of what we saw in HIV in the 90’s.”
End of 2018 will not be available until the end of next year and it may also get worse, no better.
] AP Medical Author Carla K. Johnson reported from Seattle.
On the Internet:
CDC Drug Overdose Death Dashboard – https://tinyurl.com/y75vu2dv