New U.S. sur­vey shows some progress against opi­oid cri­sis

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - HEALTH | SCIENCE - By Carla K. John­son

Fig­ures from a U.S. gov­ern­ment sur­vey re­leased Fri­day show some progress in the fight against the on­go­ing opi­oid ad­dic­tion cri­sis with fewer peo­ple in 2017 us­ing heroin for the first time com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

The num­ber of new users of heroin de­creased from 170,000 in 2016 to 81,000 in 2017, a one-year drop that would need to be sus­tained for years to re­duce the num­ber of fa­tal over­doses, ex­perts said.

Fewer Amer­i­cans are mis­us­ing or ad­dicted to pre­scrip­tion opi­oid painkillers. And more peo­ple are get­ting treat­ment for heroin and opi­oid ad­dic­tion, the sur­vey found.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion said the pos­i­tive trends show gov­ern­ment ef­forts are work­ing.

Mes­sages are reach­ing peo­ple about the dan­gers of heroin and the deadly con­tam­i­nants it of­ten con­tains on the street, Dr. Eli­nore McCance-Katz, an ad­min­is­tra­tion health of­fi­cial, said in a video pre­sen­ta­tion re­leased with the fig­ures. Among the other find­ings:

• Mar­i­juana use climbed in all age groups ex­cept young teenagers, with 2.5 per­cent of those 26 and older, or 5.3 mil­lion adults, re­port­ing they use mar­i­juana daily or al­most daily last year.

• Metham­phetamine and co­caine use climbed in young adults, ages 18 to 25. The uptick may in­di­cate that users are shift­ing from opi­oids to other drugs, said Leo Belet­sky, a pub­lic health pol­icy ex­pert at North­east­ern Univer­sity in Boston.

• Young adults have in­creas­ing rates of se­ri­ous men­tal ill­ness, ma­jor de­pres­sion and sui­ci­dal thoughts.

• The num­ber of new heroin users in 2017 — 81,000 — was lower than the num­bers in most years from 2009 to 2016. But it was sim­i­lar to the num­bers of new heroin users in 2002 through 2008.

Ex­perts said there’s still work to be done be­fore suc­cess can be de­clared.

“Taken to­gether, this does not look like the por­trait of a na­tion with im­prov­ing men­tal health and ad­dic­tion is­sues,” said Bren­dan Saloner, an ad­dic­tion re­searcher at Johns Hop­kins Bloomberg School of Pub­lic Health. “It’s hard to look at this and not think we need to be do­ing a bet­ter job than we’re do­ing now.”

Ear­lier this month, the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion re­leased pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures that ap­pear to show a lev­el­ing off in over­dose deaths in late 2017 and the first two months of this year.

Health of­fi­cials have said it’s too soon to say whether the na­tion’s drug cri­sis has peaked. But in an in­ter­view with The Associated Press this week, U.S. Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Alex Azar said sev­eral mea­sures of the cri­sis are im­prov­ing.

“We are mak­ing progress,” he said. “We are see­ing a flat­ten­ing of our deaths from over­dose.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.