August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, which focuses attention on our collective efforts to end overdose, remember without stigma those who have died, and acknowledge the grief of the family and friends left behind.
In 2019, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there were 10.1 million people age 12 or older who misused opioids in the past year. The vast majority of people misused prescription pain relievers. Recently released data shows that over 93,000 drug overdose deaths were reported in 2020 – the highest on record and nearly a 30 percent increase from 2019.
Addressing the overdose and addiction crisis is an urgent priority for the Administration. Across the continuum of care, SAMHSA/CSAP’s prevention strategies work to prevent or delay the use and misuse of substances, mitigate problems among populations at risk for substance use, and prevent the onset of substance abuse among populations showing early signs of substance abuse and related problem behaviors.
In the primary prevention space, SAMHSA/CSAP supports states and communities to develop comprehensive prevention programs to educate the public about the dangers of sharing medications, raises awareness among pharmaceutical and medical communities on the risks of overprescribing, and implements overdose death prevention strategies, such as naloxone distribution and the purchase of naloxone for first responders.
SAMHSA/CSAP funds a variety of grant programs to address the opioid crisis These include activities funded under the 20 percent set-aside of the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, the Prevent Prescription Drug/Opioid Overdose-Related Deaths, the First Responders – Comprehensive and Recovery Act, the Strategic Prevention Framework for Prescription Drugs, the Strategic Prevention Framework – Partnership for Success, and the Minority AIDS Initiative. Harm reduction strategies such as naloxone education and distribution are part of the array of prevention approaches being used by SAMHSA/CSAP’s grantees.
Addressing the opioid crisis requires a whole of government approach working across the continuum of care to support individuals, families, and communities in states, tribal nations, and jurisdictions. While the pandemic has had a significant impact on the emotional health and wellness of our nation and highlighted racial and ethnic disparities, the resilience demonstrated every day by families, providers, community leaders and others to tackle all aspects of the crisis is remarkable. Working across all sectors and applying our collective efforts will prevent first use and overdose death, which will ultimately save lives.