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The need for opioid treatment remains one of the biggest health care stories in America. And the importance of getting people who need help into treatment is key to helping address the epidemic.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that “Every day, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl—is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.”

A closer look at the statistics shows how big the problem is. The NIDA reports:

  • Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them.
  • Between 8 and 12 percent develop an opioid use disorder.
  • An estimated 4 to 6 percent who misuse prescription opioids transition to heroin.
  • About 80 percent of people who use heroin first misused prescription opioids.
  • Opioid overdoses increased 30 percent from July 2016 through September 2017 in 52 areas in 45 states.
  • The Midwestern region saw opioid overdoses increase 70 percent from July 2016 through September 2017.
  • Opioid overdoses in large cities increase by 54 percent in 16 states.

But is there hope?

Importance of Opioid Treatment

According to Utah Public Radio: “Early data indicate the number of deaths are beginning to level off, according to Alex Azar, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, citing ‘encouraging’ results in overdose trends.”

At the Milken Institute health summit, “Azar walked through statistics suggesting deaths were plateauing and he highlighted efforts he says may be turning the tide in the drug epidemic.”

While Azar noted that the numbers are “finally bending in the right direction,” the piece notes that “he added that the death toll flattening out is “hardly a victory,” especially at such high levels.”

Of course, to help ease access to opioid treatment and reduce drug usage, Congress recently signed the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. As NBC News notes: “The legislative package directs funding to federal agencies and states so they can make increasing access to addiction treatment a priority, and sets in place interventions to help mitigate the crisis, like preventing overprescription and training law enforcement to intercept shipments, including the deadly and highly addictive drug fentanyl, at U.S. borders.”