With the election of Donald Trump and Republican majorities in Congress, the GOP has vowed to move forward with its longtime pledge to undo the Affordable Care Act. While it remains to be seen what approach the Republicans will take to replace the ACA, overhauling the country’s health-care system presents a timely opportunity to address an epidemic gripping the nation: the explosive growth in opioid addiction and abuse.
The numbers are staggering. The total number of opioid pain relievers prescribed in the United States jumped from 76 million in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. In that time, Americans accounted for nearly 100 percent of the hydrocodone sales in the world and 81 percent of oxycodone sales. This explosive growth in opioid use has resulted in a surge of opioid-related deaths. In 2015, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths, a fourfold increase since 1999 that accounted for 63 percent of all drug-related deaths. As a result of this increase, drug-related deaths for the first time exceeded the number of deaths from car crashes in the United States.
With over two million Americans addicted to prescription painkillers and an additional 600,000 addicted to heroin, there’s a growing urgency to find alternative therapies that can slow or reverse this epidemic.