June Policy & Advocacy Update

National Drug Control Strategy Issued

Written by James Curtin, Chief Business & Government Relations Officer, Acenda

Based on recently issued numbers on fatal overdoses last year, it couldn’t come soon enough!

According to the CDC, more than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses last year. This sets yet another horrifying record in the escalating overdose epidemic across our country. Regions out west are now reporting on the same surge of deaths so now it’s official….these senseless tragedies are being felt across the entire nation.

Think about it this way: Last year, there was one overdose every 5 minutes in this country. It’s unimaginable when thought about this way. But it’s very real and not going away any time soon! We have fentanyl to attribute to this sad reality. This devastating situation began to be recognized even before the pandemic and funding began to flow to states earmarked for overdose prevention, treatment, and recovery services. We did see some reduction in fatal overdoses in parts of the country where state and local governments started to double down on their funding and on loosening regulations such as restrictions on prescribers for life-saving medications. Our field commonly refers to these medications as MAT.

Overdose deaths hit a record 107,000 in the U.S., CDC says

The Biden Administration has issued the inaugural National Drug Control Strategy to Congress, delivering on a call to action in the President’s unity agenda to beat the overdose epidemic. The Strategy focuses on two critical drivers of the epidemic: untreated addiction and drug trafficking.

The Strategy instructs federal agencies to prioritize actions that will save lives, get people the care they need, go after drug traffickers’ profits and make better use of data to guide all these efforts. It also champions harm reduction to meet people where they are and engaging them in care and services. The Strategy calls for actions that will expand access to evidence-based treatments that have been shown to reduce overdose risk and mortality and emphasizes the need to develop stronger data collection and analysis systems to better deploy public health interventions.

The Strategy also:

  • Directs relevant agencies to strengthen existing data systems, establish new data systems, including for non-fatal overdoses and enhance the usefulness of drug data for practitioners, researchers, and policymakers
  • Builds on the fiscal year 2023 budget request for a $300 million increase to support the work of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – one of the largest ever increases for CBP – and for a $300 million increase for the Drug Enforcement Administration
  • Includes three companion documents that direct federal agencies to take actions that stop the trafficking of drugs across the Caribbean, northern and southwest borders
  • Directs federal agencies to improve cooperation across all levels of government to strengthen the domestic response to drug trafficking; commercially disrupt the production, trafficking, and distribution of illicit substances; improve assessment of supply reduction initiatives, and protect individuals and the environment at home from criminal exploitation
  • Strengthen foreign partnerships to address drug production and trafficking, leverage the influence of multilateral organizations to tackle the shared challenge of synthetic drugs, and protect individuals and the environment abroad from criminal exploitation by those involved in drug trafficking; and
  • Expand efforts to prevent substance use among school-aged children and young adults, and support community-led coalitions implementing evidence-based prevention strategies across the country.

As mentioned above, the widespread availability of fentanyl is at the root of these tragic deaths. The CDC also reports that overdoses involving fentanyl and other synthetic opioids surpassed 71,000 last year, up 23% from the year before.

We are going in the wrong direction. The President’s National Drug Control Strategy is welcome news but can and will it be rolled out soon enough to at least begin to stem the tide of this epidemic? Otherwise, we will continue to lose our children, parents, spouses, colleagues, friends, and neighbors because we’re all susceptible directly or indirectly.