The Opioid Crisis

May 30, 2019

In the News

On May 16th, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) released a report announcing an opioid crisis in Canada and several European countries, specifically in Sweden, Norway, Ireland, England, and Wales, in addition to the known epidemic in the United States. The OECD has identified the increase in prescription and over-prescription of opioids, as well as the illegal drug trade, as the two causes of the crisis. The organization argues that “Governments should treat the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis and improve treatment, care and support for people misusing opioids.”

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have said that between 1999 and 2017, “almost 400,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids.” An additional CDC figure stated that, “On average, 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.” An op-ed written by the New York Times Editorial Board and published on March 26th argued that denial of care and a lack of use of existing resources were to blame for the current overdose epidemic. In fact, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved three medications, including buprenorphine, to treat opioid addiction almost two decades ago, these remain inaccessible to many. Meanwhile, access to medication in France, which saw a heroin crisis in the 1980s, resulted in substantial improvement. A policy was passed in 1995 to allow all doctors to prescribe this medication: “Within four years, overdose deaths had declined by 79 percent.”

The opioid crisis is among today’s most pressing issues. It is especially complex because it includes issues of opioid over-prescribing, policy changes, evading regulation, accessibility, and cost. It also involves a multitude of different players, from doctors to distributors, to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies.

The French-American Foundation will host a Transatlantic Forum on June 12 to discuss the crisis with guest speaker Bridget G. Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York.


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