Most people use substances—coffee, tea, wine, and more. It is a very natural and human thing to do. But certain substances, like opioids, can lead to overuse, harm, and death. This is such a significant problem that every year over 65,000 people die from a drug overdose and it’s become a major public health concern.
Our society has relied too heavily on incarceration as a response to substance use.
There are effective, evidence-based solutions for people whose lives have been shattered by substance use, but these solutions are not reaching those who need them.
Addiction is a treatable, chronic disease. It is NOT a moral failing.
Most people use substances, but a variety of factors can lead to addiction. While initial use may be a voluntary choice, extended use can change brain chemistry, effecting the natural chemicals that enable basic life functions. This causes the brain to become dependent on drugs and without them, a person with an addiction will go into withdrawal. This can be physically and psychologically unbearable as well as dangerous. At this point, substance use disorder is no more a voluntary choice than many other chronic illnesses like diabetes or heart disease that are brought on by a combination of human behavior and biology.
Too many people cannot get treatment.
Medication for addiction treatment (MAT), such as buprenorphine, is proven to help patients dealing with substance use disorder, particularly opioids.
Discrimination and stigma create missed opportunities for treatment.
Federal policies make it less likely that people will get treatment.
- To prescribe buprenorphine, a medication that treats opioid addiction, clinicians must get a special federal “waiver.” Only an estimated 4% of U.S. physicians have this waiver.
- Methadone, another effective medication, cannot be prescribed at all for opioid addiction in regular medical settings, but only in special methadone clinics.
- These restrictions are more stringent than restrictions on the very opioids that cause addiction.
The time to solve this problem is now.
This public health crisis is not fading away.