Photo courtesy of the US Embassy in Argentina.
In March 2021, the Biden Administration released a statement describing, in general terms, the way they plan to quell the addiction and overdose crisis ravaging American families. It’s appropriate that this tragic problem not be overlooked by this or any administration. Could there be any downside to this statement of intent?
Perhaps. It depends on how this plan rolls out in real life. Here are a few points from this list of priorities to consider. The Biden Administration plans on:
- “Expanding access to evidence-based treatment.” This statement is used to describe the use of medication in the treatment of addiction. While there’s nothing specifically wrong with this, could this emphasis on evidence-based treatment cut off support to successful rehabilitation activities that do not utilize medication in their programs?
- “Enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts.” Harm reduction helps reduce the spread of disease. Actions such as distributing the opioid-antidote naloxone keep some people alive who would otherwise be lost. But place too heavy a reliance on harm reduction and it’s easy to lose sight of the best goal possible: Assisting the addicted in recovering the ability to live drug-free.
Are there also positive aspects to these priorities? Definitely.
- “Supporting evidence-based prevention efforts to reduce youth substance use.” Prevention efforts sometimes (and understandably) get neglected when resources have to be directed to saving those lives in immediate danger. More emphasis on prevention is vital.
- “Reducing the supply of illicit substances.” It will always be vital to take deadly substances off the street so we can save as many lives as possible.
- “Expand access to recovery support services.” It’s hard to say exactly what this will mean in practice but in general, more support for those in recovery is always needed.
The proof will be in how these priorities are implemented. If we finally reverse the climbing number of overdose losses, they will prove themselves to be the correct priorities.