Federal Actions on Opioids

The Federal Government is implementing major initiatives to address the growing opioid abuse problem. Recent actions include:

In addition, the House and the Senate passed bills that would do several things including bolstering prescription drug monitoring and treatment and abuse-prevention programs; funding drug disposal efforts; and assisting states that want to expand the availability of the drug naloxone, which helps reverse overdoses. Differences in legislation remain to be resolved, but action in this session is anticipated.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recognizes that opioid abuse and addiction is “a serious and challenging public health issue.”1 In March 2015, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) published an issue brief, “Opioid Abuse in the U.S. and HHS Actions to Address Opioid-Drug Related Overdoses and Deaths.” In the brief, HHS indicated that addressing the ongoing issue of opioid abuse is a high priority for the Department. HHS has two goals for addressing this issue:

  1. “Decreasing opioid overdoses and overall overdose mortality, and
  2. Decreasing the prevalence of opioid use disorder.” 1

HHS plans to achieve these goals through initiatives that target three priority areas to combat opioid abuse:

  1. “Opioid prescribing practices to reduce opioid use disorders and overdose,
  2. Expanded use and distribution of naloxone, and
  3. Expansion of Medication-assisted Treatment (MAT) to reduce opioid use disorders and overdose.” 1

In the time since the ASPE published their Brief, many agencies within HHS have released resources to fulfill the identified goals. HHS released a National Pain Strategy (PDF - 1030 KB) in March 2016, 1 year after the Brief was released. The National Institutes of Health Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee (IRPCC) said of the strategy:

“Better pain care, achieved through implementation of the National Pain Strategy, is an essential element in the Secretary’s initiative to address the opioid epidemic. Access to care that appropriately assesses benefits and risks to people suffering from pain remains a priority that needs to be balanced with efforts to curb inappropriate opioid prescribing and use practices. The Strategy provides opportunities for reducing the need for and over-reliance on prescription opioid medications…”2

The IRPCC noted that the strategy is part of a “broad effort” towards “safer and appropriate opioid prescribing” and is complemented by other Federal resources, such as the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain—United States, 2016.

Other Federal-related resources include:

1 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Opioid Abuse in the U.S. and HHS Actions to Address Opioid-Drug Related Overdoses and Deaths. Issue Brief. Washington, DC: Author; March 2015. https://aspe.hhs.gov/basic-report/opioid-abuse-us-and-hhs-actions-address-opioid-drug-related-overdoses-and-deaths. Accessed June 7, 2016.

2National Institutes of Health, Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee. National Pain Strategy.  https://iprcc.nih.gov/National_Pain_Strategy/NPS_Main.htm. Accessed June 7, 2016.

Posted June 2016