Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation

Policy Brief: America’s Opioid Epidemic

Posted on December 4, 2017

Scattergood publishes policy brief on US opioid epidemic

The Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation and Peg’s Foundation have released a new policy brief on America’s Opioid Epidemic, their seventh on recommendations for behavioral health care reform in the United States.

We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic and continue to lose ground in terms of the annual number of people who overdose and die and the ever-growing sale of these substances, legal and illegal. Opioid drugs are either natural derivatives of the poppy plant (such as opium and morphine) or drugs synthesized to occupy the same brain receptors (such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percodan, and fentanyl) and thus to produce the same desired effects, as well as potentially fatal effects.

Every day in the United States an estimated 142 people die from drug overdoses, and such deaths are surely underreported; the number of fatalities exceeds the number from motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds combined. Deaths from opioid overdoses have continued to rise, attributable to the increased use of heroin and fentanyl additives, with estimates of an increase of 22% in 2016. The greatest problem (as well as utility) with opioid drugs (and other drugs) is that they are immediately effective in relieving human physical and psychic pain and delivering surcease from the existential miseries and ennui that life can produce. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease (5), fostered and amplified by psychological and social forces. However, the biological and behavioral drivers of addiction have not been the primary focus of efforts to reduce the use and illegal sale of drugs and associated deaths. Instead, since the early 1900s, U.S. policies and practices have pursued two principal—and failed—approaches.

To download the full report, go here.

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