The NACCHO Podcast Series recently posted an interview with the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Michael Botticelli on the opioid epidemic and how local health departments can help prevent opioid and prescription drug overdose in their communities.
According to Botticelli, the epidemic is partly a result of the over prescription of pain medications and the underestimation of the addictive quality of these drugs. “[The number of opioid overdose related deaths] unfortunately correlates incredibly elegantly to the over prescribing of prescription pain medication,” he says.
In 2011, ONDCP released the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan in order to combat these issues. The plan includes educating patients and prescribers, monitoring patient drug use, encouraging the proper disposal of unused drugs, and enhancing law enforcement in some parts of the country.
While the federal government created this plan, change will come from the adoption of these goals at the state and local levels. There have already been developments at these levels in addressing the opioid epidemic. Some states have increased access to naloxone, a medication that counters the effects of opioids in the event of an overdose. Communities have also started sterile syringe programs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV.
Botticelli emphasizes the importance of continuing to increase public health efforts to address the opioid epidemic. “For too long we have relied on arrest and incarceration, which I always say is inhumane, costly, and ineffective,” Boticelli states.
To listen to the podcast, visit the NACCHO Podcast Series.