• New Efforts to Stop America’s Opioid Abuse Problem

a collection of prescription pill bottles
The Obama administration has unveiled a handful of new measures intended to fight prescription opioid and heroin abuse in America.

"I think the public doesn't fully appreciate yet the scope of the problem," said President Barack Obama, who addressed those attending the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta on March 29.

New initiatives include:

  • Making funding available to states to purchase and distribute the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, and train first responders and others on its use.
  • Increasing the patient limit for qualified physicians who prescribe buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders. The proposal would allow doctors to prescribe the drug to 200 patients each – up from 100.
  • Providing funding for increasing addiction treatment services at 271 health centers across the U.S., with a specific focus on expanding medication-assisted treatment in underserved communities.

Opioids are addictive drugs that include prescription painkillers and illegal drugs such as heroin. Deaths linked to opioids increased to more than 29,000 in 2014, the highest number on record, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.

Earlier in March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued its first-ever recommendations for primary care clinicians on prescribing opioids. The CDC developed materials to help providers implement the recommendations, including a decision checklist.

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced safety labeling changes for all immediate-release opioid pain medications, including requiring a new boxed warning about the serious risks of misuse, abuse, addiction, overdose and death associated with these drugs.

Related stories:

One in 4 People Prescribed Opioids Progressed to Longer-Term Prescriptions (July 1, 2015)

Pain. Pill. Problem. Use and Overuse of Prescription Painkillers in Minnesota (August 25, 2015)

Mayo Clinic Minute: Heroin Overdose Drug (December 31, 2015)

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