The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plays a crucial role in our nation, responsible for much and tasked with many responsibilities for keeping our country safe and healthy. The CDC is often beleaguered with rather serious problems, their mission being to address the greatest of threats to the health and vitality of the American people.
Tom Frieden, the most recent director of the CDC, has been the longest standing director since the 1970s. He’d led the nation through the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic, the Ebola and Zika outbreaks, and perhaps worst of all, the nation’s growing drug overdose crisis.
In one of Frieden’s last interviews, Tom spoke strongly about the nation’s drug overdose epidemic, and what he expects of the Trump Administration in addressing that epidemic.
According to Tom Frieden, the drug overdose issue in the U.S. is easily one of the most concerning health problems our nation faces today, if not the most concerning health problem. Frieden spoke optimistically about the progress made during his term, saying that:
While Tom Frieden feels strongly that the CDC has been able to do much on state levels to help states better cope with their own, individual overdose problems, Frieden feels strongly that much needs to be done on a federal level to curb the rising overdose crisis.
According to CDC research data, the U.S. is struggling with the worst drug addiction epidemic in the history of our nation. According to the CDC, deaths from prescription drugs (drugs that are supposed to help us and make our lives easier) in fact quadrupled between 1995 and 2010.
By 2015, there were an estimated ninety-two million individuals across the nation who were prescribed an opioid of some kind, and more than thirty-thousand of them died from opioids in just that year alone. By 2015, more than one-hundred million Americans took an opioid pain reliever for one reason or another, and more than forty-four thousand Americans lost their lives as a result.
The CDC has broken the categories of addressing addiction down into two, key categories. These are:
CDC officials went on further to recommend key strategies that the federal government needs to implement in order to reduce drug overdose issues:
Improve the nation’s ability to perform surveillance on opioid addiction across all levels. According to the CDC, there exists no current, real-time systems for assessing and monitoring the numbers, patterns, or tendencies of an opioid crisis in any given area. This makes it very difficult to identify areas that are being affected by opioids and even more difficult to take necessary action in addressing those areas. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs are a start, but they are extremely limited in their workability. The CDC strongly encourages a better system for monitoring and assessing a drug problem in any area so action can be taken and lives can be saved.
The CDC also recommends improvement in opioid overdose response. According to the CDC’s top health official, Dr. Anne Schuchat, an overdose death is easily preventable through rapid response and treatment. However, tens of thousands of Americans die from overdoses because no one is there to save them. More reliable information on overdoses, on what drugs are causing overdoses, on where the majority of overdoses are occurring, and on how to respond to an overdose would better prepare families and emergency response units alike. Lives would be saved.
A drum that the CDC has beaten on for years now is that U.S. doctors must become more cautious in their prescribing tendencies, and they must cut back significantly on the sheer numbers of opioid drugs they peddle out of their offices every year. The CDC recommends that opioids only be used to treat pain after surgery or serious injury, and even then only for a limited time. The CDC points out that high-strength opioids are far too often prescribed to treat daily, chronic pain that could easily be treated with over-the-counter anti-inflammatories or even holistic and natural medicines.
The CDC wants to change the way Americans and doctors view pain. The CDC recommends that we take our concepts of pain back to pre-1990s era concepts, before medical administrations and Big Pharma decided that we needed to use powerful and addictive drugs to address every single, little phenomenon of pain that Americans felt. The CDC wants to eliminate marketing of opioids as “miracle cures” for pain, as they are most definitely not miracle cures, not by a long shot.
As we move forward, we must focus on heeding the CDC’s recommendations, and on making a positive change in the current drug addiction epidemic. We can’t keep applying the same strategies we’ve been applying all this time. In the words of Albert Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”