-By Daniel Busch, MD, Advocacy Chair, FED UP! Coalition
Addiction Policy Forum (APF) and its Founder, CEO, and President, Jessica Nickel, have become a force within the addiction advocacy movement. Ms. Nickel is widely respected. She is bright, capable, and gets things done. In the past year, she has testified before the President’s Opioid Commission and before important congressional committees and subcommittees.
APF now has chapters in 19 states. Twelve of these have been founded since mid-April, 2018. Many of the chapters are led by excellent people devoted to addiction treatment. APF recently launched its Addiction Resource Center, a user-friendly website to locate local addiction treatment resources,
So what’s the problem?
The problem is the relationship between Ms. Nickel and the pharmaceutical industry.
The long delay since the last Advocacy Update does not reflect the pace of activities in the opioid addiction epidemic or in FED UP!
The terrible news that came in December was a shocking 27.7% increase in opioid overdose deaths. 350,000 Americans have now died of opioid overdose deaths since the epidemic began in 1999. Between 2015 and 2016, deaths due to fentanyl and analogues more than doubled from 9,945 to 20,145, and more opioid deaths in 2016 involved fentanyl than either prescription opioids or heroin. Fentanyl is 50-100 times stronger than heroin, and users have no way to know how much fentanyl has been added to their heroin, or whether their entire heroin dose is in fact fentanyl. Heroin has always been a dangerous drug, but as fentanyl-laced heroin became common, the death rate for heroin users tripled.
Daniel Busch, M.D.
Chair FED UP! Coalition Advocacy Committee
The last few months have certainly demonstrated the real inadequacy of the Federal Government’s efforts in dealing with the epidemic of opioid addiction. The worst news has been the ongoing escalation in opioid overdose deaths.
The number of opioid deaths rose from 33,091 in 2016
to 42,249 in 2016, an increase of 27.7% in a single year. The total of number of opioid deaths in the epidemic rose to over 350,000
Furthermore, provisional CDC data indicate that there has been a rise of another 8.1% of opioid deaths in 2017, which would bring the number of opioid deaths to 69,000 in 2017.
Our August FED UP Rally included a press event at the National Press Club calling for FDA removal of high dose opioids, a networking luncheon for partners to share advocacy practices, and a march to the White House and a candlelight vigil for hundreds of our followers. We believe our voices are being heard and reflected in a number of important addiction-fighting developments this fall.
Since our last update and in the face of ever increasing overdose deaths, we have seen coverage of the opioid addiction epidemic increase nationally. The epidemic has generated additional interest in policy and legislative solutions as well.
The FED UP Coalition is saddened to report that opioid-related overdose deaths continue to rise, seemingly unabated. Nationally, opioid overdose deaths rose 15% from 28,647 in 2014 to 33,091 in 2015. Heroin overdose deaths are skyrocketing because fentanyl is frequently mixed in with the heroin or sold as heroin. Final 2016 statistics, when reviewed and released by the CDC, are expected to be even more horrific.
As 2017 begins, we all are numbed by the continued horrific increase in overdose deaths involving opioids which rose from 28,647 in 2014 to 33,091 in 2015. Heroin overdose deaths rose from 10,574 in 2014 to 12,990 in 2015, an increase of 23 percent. Heroin continues to flood our communities and new threats in the form of Fentanyl and Carfentanil are continuing to emerge virtually unstopped. When final 2016 statistics are revealed by the CDC, those deaths are expected to be even more gruesome.
In the final days of 2016, the federal government took an important step toward controlling the opioid addiction epidemic. A bill signed into law on December 13th called the 21st Century Cures Act includes $1 billion in grants to states to expand access to opioid addiction treatment. FED UP fought long and hard for this funding. In recognition of our efforts, Judy Rummler (FED UP’s chairperson) was invited to the signing ceremony at the White House.
In 2016, CARA was passed. But much more needs to be done or overdose deaths will continue to mount. Previous calls for $920M to address the nation’s treatment gap have been ignored. Your member of Congress needs to hear from you now! They need to hear ASAP that every day without funding for treatment means more lost lives.
Thanks to all followers who descended upon Washington to attend the FED UP Rally, National Press Club Reception and Hill Day educational briefing. Only by aiming our voices at federal health and elected officials will we achieve the changes needed in federal policy and legislation to stem the tide of the opioid addiction epidemic.