Opioids Misuse and Abuse

Over the past decade, opioid addiction and overdose has become a crisis in communities across the country, both in terms of prescription drugs and abuse as well as heroin. Deaths by opioid overdose—prescriptions and heroin—now outnumber fatal car accidents. 

Public health officials in the Big Cities Health Coalition (BCHC) have been on the front lines of this epidemic for years. Previous generations of opioid abusers were largely addicted to heroin, and were overwhelmingly young, black males in urban areas. Today, opioid addiction runs rampant across class and racial divisions. Previous generations of opioid abusers were largely addicted to heroin, and were overwhelmingly young, black men in poor urban areas. Today’s opioid users are older, more suburban, more affluent, and more likely to have become addicted to a prescription painkiller as an entry point to misuse/abuse. Currently, opioid addiction runs rampant across all class and racial divisions.  

The Coalition's Work

There are many possible solutions that can be taken to combat and prevent this problem. On the federal level, laws can be created and implemented to prevent drug abuse, provide access to treatment, and create educational programs for patients, health care providers and pharmacists. The most recent update to the ONDCP’s National Drug Control Strategy focuses on safe prescribing practices, which is an important component among a wide range of actions being taken by the federal government and agencies.

Advocacy & Policy

The Big Cities Health Coalition's wrote a letter to comment on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recent Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain

Throughout 2016, the Coalition was active in stressing to members of Congress the importance of passing key legislation to address this crisis: 

  • The Big Cities Health Coalition requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review a rule that puts an arbitrary cap on the number of patients medical providers are allowed to treat  with an opioid addiction treatment called buprenorphine.
  • Sent a letter to U.S. Senators Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, requesting their support for the passage of S.524, the “Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act" (CARA). Members also requested that legislators go a step further by also supporting "The Recovery Enhancement for Addiction Treatment (TREAT) Act,” (S.1455).
  • The Coalition weighed in on the Food and Drug Administration's proposed guidelines on the federal government's Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

Related Content

Local Public Health vs. America’s Opioid Epidemic

Download “On the Frontlines: Local Public Health versus America’s Opioid Epidemic,” from NACCHO's Exchange to explore the nation’s opioid crisis from a multidimensional local public health perspective, focusing on topics ranging from community-based partnerships and surveillance to harm reduction and overdose prevention. Some of the articles in this issue include:

  • State of the Opioid Epidemic: Local Public Health as the First Line of Defense
  • A Federal Perspective on the Opioid Epidemic: An Interview with Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, Surgeon General of the United States
  • Establishing Community-Based Partnerships to Combat the Opioid Epidemic
  • Promoting Overdose Prevention through Policy, Education, and Outreach
  • Comprehensive Approaches to Preventing Opioid Misuse
  • Vulnerability to HIV and Hepatitis B and C Virus among Persons Who Inject Drugs: Learning from the 2015 HIV Outbreak in Scott County, Indiana

Case Study

Click here to learn how Baltimore is increasing treatment availability.

Click here to learn how Baltimore is increasing treatment availability.

Blanket Prescription: How Every Citizen in Baltimore Can Now Save a Life from Opioid Overdose

Addiction does not discriminate and Baltimore officials believe that all citizens should have the capacity to save a life. The program is built on the belief that naloxone should be part of everyone's medicine cabinet and everyone's first aid kit.