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The White House
For Immediate Release

White House Announces Community Forums on Opioid Epidemic

New data show opioid-related overdose deaths rose again in 2014

Today, the White House announced that National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli will host community forums across the country focused on best practices and evidence-based initiatives to prevent and treat prescription drug abuse and heroin use. These forums will serve as an opportunity to continue the conversation that President Obama began in West Virginia in October, where he announced new public and private sector efforts to address the opioid overdose epidemic. New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that overdose deaths associated with opioids increased significantly across the country in 2014.

The first forum will be held in Oklahoma on December 16, followed by Connecticut and other states early next year. The forums will include perspectives from public health, public safety and people directly affected by the opioid epidemic.  

“The President has made clear that the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic is a priority for this Administration,” said Director Botticelli. “We have tools that we know are effective in reducing drug use and overdose, like evidence-based prevention programs, prescription drug monitoring, medication-assisted treatment and the overdose reversal drug naloxone. The forums will highlight local examples of how States and communities are using these and other tools, so their efforts can serve as models for others. We have lost too many children, parents, friends, and neighbors to delay in making these tools available wherever they are needed.”

More Americans now die every year from drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes. The new 2014 CDC data show continued sharp increases in heroin-involved deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. According to law enforcement reports, the rise in fentanyl-related deaths is predominantly from increases in illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

In October of this year, the President announced a number of new steps that the Administration is taking to address this issue. He also announced a number of private sector commitments, including a commitment by more than 40 provider groups – representing doctors, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists and educators -- that more than 540,000 health care providers will complete opioid prescriber training in the next two years. In addition, CBS, ABC, the New York Times, Google, the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and other companies will donate millions of dollars in media space for PSAs about the risks of prescription drug misuse produced by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

These announcements build on efforts that began in 2010, when the President released his first National Drug Control Strategy, which emphasized the need for action to address opioid use disorders and overdose, while ensuring that individuals with pain receive safe, effective treatment.  The next year, the White House released its national Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan to outline goals for addressing prescription drug abuse and overdose.  Since then, the Administration has supported and expanded community-based efforts to prevent drug use, pursue ‘smart on crime’ approaches to drug enforcement, improve prescribing practices for pain medication, increase access to treatment, work to reduce overdose deaths, and support the millions of Americans in recovery. The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget included critical investments to intensify efforts to address the opioid epidemic, including $133 million in new funding.

CDC and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have been investigating recent increases in fentanyl-related overdose fatalities in multiple states across the country. Earlier this year, DEA issued a nationwide alert on fentanyl, and CDC issued a health advisory on fentanyl with recommendations for public health departments, health care providers, first responders, and medical examiners and coroners.

Background on 2014 Drug Overdose Data

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, drug overdose deaths increased significantly between 2013 and 2014, driven in large part by continued sharp increases in heroin deaths and an emerging increase in deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl. 

  • Prescription opioid-related deaths increased by 16%, or 2,658 deaths, compared to 2013 data. There were 18,893 overdose deaths involving prescription opioids. 
  • Prescription opioid-related overdose deaths are increasing in part because deaths involving synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl and tramadol, increased by 79% from 2013-2014. About 5,544 people died from overdoses involving synthetic opioids in 2014. 
  • Heroin-related death rates increased 28% from 2013-2014, totaling 10,574 deaths in 2014. 

Note: Naturally derived opioid pain medications include morphine and codeine. Semi-synthetic opioid pain medications include oxycodone, hydrocodone, hydromorphone, and oxymorphone. Synthetic opioid pain medications include fentanyl and tramadol.

For more information about the Office of National Drug Control Policy visit: