Deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Prescription drugs, especially opioid analgesics — a class of prescription drugs such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and methadone used to treat both acute and chronic pain — have been increasingly implicated in drug overdose deaths over the last decade. From 1999 to 2013, the rate for drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled, and deaths related to heroin have also increased sharply since 2010, with a 39 percent increase between 2012 and 2013.
In response to these recent increases in opioid-related morbidity and mortality, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has made addressing the opioid abuse problem a high priority and is focused on implementing evidence-based approaches to reduce: 1) opioid overdoses and overdose-related mortality and 2) the prevalence of opioid use disorder.
The Secretary charged ASPE to convene HHS senior leadership and subject matter experts from across the Department to develop an initiative that focuses on three priority areas, grounded in the best research and clinical science available, to combat opioid abuse:
- Opioid prescribing practices to reduce opioid use disorders and overdose
- The expanded use of naloxone, used to treat opioid overdoses
- Expanded use of Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT) to reduce opioid use disorders and overdose
More detail can be found below:
HHS continues to coordinate with agencies across the Department, and HHS leadership has joined together to aggressively implement the new initiative and monitor progress. Many activities are already underway, and the Department continues to seek opportunities to work with its partners on this public health crisis.