Stopping the scourge: An all-out effort to fight opioid addiction | Crain's San Antonio

Stopping the scourge: An all-out effort to fight opioid addiction

To call it an epidemic in the United States is not an exaggeration. Opioid-related deaths have risen more than five times in two decades. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, that class of powerful drugs — which includes not only illegal substances such as heroin but also synthetics such as fentanyl and legally available pain relievers, such as oxycodone and codeine — in 2016 accounted for more than 42,000 deaths across the country: the most ever. At least 40 percent of those deaths were attributed to prescription opioids, per numbers from the Centers for Disease Control.

The economic impact is undeniable; a recent analysis reports that the cost burden of opioid abuse–related health problems, overdoses and deaths has exceeded $1 trillion since 2001 — in an ever-climbing curve.

The crisis touches every socioeconomic level and every corner of the country. Strategies to combat it come from government on all levels: federal, state and local. The White House just announced some initiatives. But states, cities and towns are tackling the problem more concretely:

Here are more ways in which we’re seeing companies and communities strive to end the epidemic:

Education and awareness are key:

  • Indiana has enough bottles of opioid painkillers in circulation for nearly every resident to have their own, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts indicate if the opioid-related death toll continues to rise, it could exceed 15,000 in the next decade in Indiana alone. The crisis has forced businesses, organizations, agencies, universities, medical professionals, law enforcement and the judicial system to band together in new ways.
  • In Utah, Intermountain Healthcare has launched an initiative to promote awareness, education and safe use of prescription opioids. For public awareness and education, Intermountain providers partnered with community leaders to introduce “new thinking” about prescriptions, discuss the dangers of opioids, and suggest ways to talk to patients about the issue.

Companies are putting new technologies to the test to help in the fight:

Other strategies involve innovative thinking:

March 20, 2018 - 5:16pm