Updated CDC Data Show Drug Overdose Deaths are Highest 12-Month Total Ever Recorded

Provisional data on drug overdose death counts in all 50 states and the District of Columbia released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show that 100,306 people died from drug overdoses in the United States during April 2020 to April 2021. This figure is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded and the first time that deaths have reached six figures. The data show that there was a 28.5 percent increase in overdose deaths compared to the previous 12-month period, with statisticians at NCHS predicting that 2021 will set a record for highest drug-related deaths. According to NCHS, two-thirds of the drug-related overdose deaths were due to synthetic opioids, primarily illegally manufactured fentanyl, which was an increase of 49% compared to the previous 12-month period. This data suggests that the rise in deaths during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic could be a consequence of the increased social isolation and decreased access to medical services due to local health department’s substance use treatment and prevention programs being limited or shut down completely during the pandemic. National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Dr. Nora Volkow said in a statement, “What we’re seeing are the effects of these patterns of crisis and the appearance of more dangerous drugs at much lower prices. In a crisis of this magnitude, those already taking drugs may take higher amounts and those in recovery may relapse. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen and perhaps could have predicted.” In response to the new data, President Joseph Biden issued a statement noting the Administration’s commitment to addressing addition, saying “We are strengthening prevention, promoting harm reduction, expanding treatment, and supporting people in recovery, as well as reducing the supply of harmful substances in our communities.”

Articles & Resources

CDC – Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts

Wall Street Journal – Drug Overdose Deaths, Fueled by Fentanyl, Hit Record High in U.S.

CNN – Drug overdose deaths top 100,000 annually for the first time, driven by fentanyl, CDC data show

The White House – Statement by President Joe Biden on Surpassing 100,000 American Overdose Deaths in the Past Year

SAMHSA Extends Methadone Flexibilities During COVID-19 PHE

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced that it is extending take-home flexibilities for methadone for one year after the end of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). The extension is a continuation of the flexibilities put in place in March 2020, which included blanket exceptions for extended take-home medication policies for patients deemed stable to do so. The flexibilities allow Opioid Treatment Programs to dispense take-home methadone in increments of 28 days to stable patients and 14 days to patients who are considered less stable. In a press release, Dr. Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use and leader of SAMHSA, said “The methadone take-home flexibility has received widespread support among patients, service providers, and state authorities. Innovative treatment solutions like this are in line with the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to make it easier to connect Americans to effective recovery solutions and support.”

Articles & Resources

SAMHSA – SAMHSA Extends the Methadone Take-Home Flexibility for One Year While Working Toward a Permanent Solution

SAMHSA – Methadone Take-Home Flexibilities Extension Guidance

ONDCP Releases Model Law for States to Increase Naloxone Access

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced a new model law for states that includes a framework to reduce the barriers to naloxone access. The model law – Model Expanded Access to Emergency Opioid Antagonists Act – includes provisions to develop a pilot program for bystanders, expand access to naloxone in educational and correctional settings, develop educational opportunities for citizens to administer naloxone, require health insurance coverage for naloxone, and protect individuals who administer naloxone from prosecution. In response to the release of the model law, ONDCP Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said, “Naloxone is one of the most effective tools we have to save lives. But sadly, today, people with substance use disorders are overdosing and dying across the country because naloxone access depends a great deal on where you live. This model law provides states with a framework to make naloxone accessible to those who need it.” The model law was developed in collaboration with the Legislative Analysis and Public Policy Association and funded through ONDCP’s Model Acts Program.

Articles & Resources

The White House – White House Releases State Model Law to Help Make Access to Naloxone Consistent Across the Country

Bloomberg Government – States Get Road Map for Easing Access to Opioid Reversal Drug

Model Expanded Access to Emergency Opioid Antagonists Act

What We Read Last Week

Several articles were published last week pertaining to the opioid epidemic, covering a variety of different components of the issue. Links to relevant articles are provided below.

AMA – AMA adopts new public health policies to improve health of nation

Bloomberg – McKesson Opioid Trial Begins With $95 Billion Potentially at Stake

Bloomberg Government – Biden’s Overdose Prevention Plan Faces Social, State Barriers

Bloomberg Government – Purdue Pharma, Sacklers Urge Appeals Judge to Affirm Opioid Deal

Bloomberg Government – Washington Seeks Over $38 Billion From Opioid Distributors

Congressman David Trone – Congressman David Trone Leads Commission on Combating Synthetic Opioid Trafficking on Fact-Finding Mission to Mexico and Southern Border

DEA – Administrator Anne Milgram Remarks on the Overdose Epidemic

FDA – FDA Authorizes Marketing of Virtual Reality System for Chronic Pain Reduction

Senator Ben Cardin – Maryland Delegation Announces More Than $1.6 Million for Maryland’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Senator Maggie Hassan – Senator Hassan Targets Drug Trafficking Financing During Senate Hearing

Senator Shelley Moore Capito – Capito Hosts National Institute On Drug Abuse Director In West Virginia

The Washington Post – Biden’s drug czar wants to expand use of addiction medication

The White House – Building Back Better Together: A Secure, Prosperous North America

This Week’s Calendar

In the week ahead, there are no relevant events or hearings noticed at this time. In the event that there are any changes to the schedule for this week, we will make additional information available.

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