With more than 40 states reporting increases in fatal opioid overdoses, the National Safety Council is urging both the Biden and Trump campaigns to include opioid overdose prevention as part of their COVID-19 recovery plans. In a letter sent to both campaigns today, NSC further urges the candidates to discuss their strategies around prevention, treatment and the employers’ role in ending the crisis at the Sept. 29 debate in Cleveland, Ohio – a state decimated by the opioid epidemic.
Opioid overdose is the single worst drug crisis in U.S. history, and the coronavirus pandemic is exacerbating the problem. The letter from NSC states that in June, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use, and 13% reported starting or increasing substance use. A recent study found that people with substance use disorders (SUDs) are more susceptible to COVID-19 and its complications.
All of these factors stand to continue erasing gains we had been making. Recently released data demonstrates that the 2018 drop in overdose fatalities was reversed in 2019, with preliminary numbers showing a record-high 50,000 fatal opioid overdoses last year.
“A national plan to combat the overdose crisis must be part of the broader national strategy to recover from this pandemic and continue after a vaccine is widely deployed,” said Jenny Burke, senior director, impairment practice at the National Safety Council.
Earlier this year, in collaboration with over 60 organizations and companies, NSC released a comprehensive National Plan to Address Opioid Misuse. The recommendations in this plan take into account the many factors, systems and players that have a role in the lifecycle of addiction – from prevention to recovery, from education to the criminal justice system, from prescribers to employers. NSC urges both campaigns to adopt the plan in full and to detail the following to the American people:
- How the candidate’s pandemic response plan will address the consequences of increasing opioid use disorder (OUD) rates
- How the candidate will support employers as they work to prevent opioid misuse and support employees in treatment and recovery
- How the candidate will increase services to underserved and vulnerable populations who have increased risks of developing a substance use disorder and more difficulty accessing treatment and recovery support services