Summary of panel discussion on the opioid overdose crisis

By ROGER STARK, PATRICK MCGARRY, JR.  | 
POLICY NOTES
|
Nov 28, 2018

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Key Findings

  1. The opioid crisis is a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted solution.
  2. The federal government has designed a Crisis Strategy to prevent and treat substance addiction.
  3. Washington state is suffering from a lack of resources designated to fight the drug-abuse epidemic.
  4. The city of Seattle likewise does not have enough resources to effectively affect the overdose crisis.
  5. Treatment is a necessary part of the solution, but it is not the only solution. Safe injection sites are not reducing the opioid epidemic.
  6. Students need to be educated about substance abuse at an earlier age to prevent future abuse.

Introduction

On October 18th, Washington Policy Center held the October edition of its monthly Eastside Breakfast Series. This forum featured a panel discussion on several aspects of the opioid crisis, a drug-abuse epidemic that is a rapidly-increasing problem in Seattle, King County, and across the nation.

According to Dr. Roger Stark, Health Care Policy Analyst at Washington Policy Center, it has been over a century since the United States first declared what drugs and medications legal and illegal under federal law.

After this declaration, the nation began to see treatment programs and institutions play an integral role in the recovery process for those struggling with addiction to illegal substances. In 1971, President Richard Nixon began the War on Drugs, a movement caused mostly by widespread use of recreational marijuana, heroin and other drugs in society.  Since then, the War on Drugs has cost the American taxpayers over $1 trillion. 

Twenty years ago, 17,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses nationwide. Six years ago, the United States began to see a dramatic increase in that number. In 2016, 64,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. The number of deaths grew to 72,000 in 2017. As discussed by the panel, the opioid epidemic is a complex problem that requires a multi-faceted solution, but regulatory barriers are preventing a comprehensive solution from being developed. 

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