Approximately 100 Americans died from overdose every day in 2010. In just one year, we lost 38,000 people to overdose—more than the number who died from either homicides or traffic crashes. 22,000 of those deaths involved prescription drugs, and more than 3,000 involved heroin. Frighteningly, other data show that opiate use among young people is increasing.
These numbers are staggering. Here’s what makes them heartbreaking: every overdose death is preventable. Two years ago, we released a comprehensive plan to address our nation’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. This plan supports prescription drug monitoring programs, convenient and environmentally responsible drug disposal methods, education for patients and prescribers, and law enforcement efforts to decrease diversion of prescription drugs.
In honor of International Overdose Awareness Day, this Saturday, August 31, we are joining other federal partners to announce the release of the Opioid Overdose Toolkit. The Toolkit, developed by the Department of Health and Human Services, provides information on overdose prevention, treatment and recovery for first responders, prescribers, and patients.
This toolkit builds upon our efforts to expand prevention and treatment. It also promotes the use of naloxone, a life-saving overdose reversal drug which we believe should be in the patrol cars of every law enforcement professional across the nation. We have lost too many loved ones to overdose, and the deadly disease of addiction has remained for too long in the shadows. It is time to speak out. By raising awareness, we can honor those we’ve lost by preventing future losses.
Michael Botticelli is the Deputy Director of National Drug Control Policy.