Policymakers and public health officials are sounding the alarm about the opioid overdose crisis nationwide. More than 115 people die each day due to opioid-related drug overdoses, and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar has made combatting this epidemic one of his top priorities. White House and HHS officials have met with representatives of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) and peer medical societies to discuss strategies to confront the epidemic and have also launched a public service campaign to help educate Americans about the highly addictive nature of opioids.
The Trump administration has launched the first phase of its long-promised anti-opioid media campaign as part of its efforts to address the opioid crisis. The first ads to run in the campaign target young adults, warning them of the dangers of opioid addiction. The ad campaign includes four television and digital ads featuring true stories of young people who have struggled with addiction and took steps to injure themselves in order to get access to more opioids.
“Many Americans have developed their addiction following treatment for a painful condition, and many are overdosing on prescription painkillers or illegal opioids like heroin and illicit fentanyl. In fact, it is estimated that between 60% and 75% of Americans who use heroin started with misusing prescription opioids,” wrote Secretary Azar and Admiral Brett P. Giroir, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, in a powerful public statement on the crisis released in June 2018 (1).
In addition to the public service campaign, one of the keys to success in reducing the fight against opioid-related deaths is ensuring patients and their families have access to safe alternatives to manage pain. ASN is working in partnership with other advocates in Washington—including the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and the Renal Physicians Association (RPA) to ensure alternatives exist for people affected by kidney diseases.
“But as we combat the opioid crisis, we cannot forget that pain is a real problem,” wrote Giroir and HHS Secretary Azar in their statement. “Severe pain—chronic or acute—affects a broad spectrum of our fellow Americans: our children, our parents, our spouses, our relatives, or our neighbors. We must do a better job of securing for them safe, effective options for managing pain.”