Drug abuse has killed more people than both World Wars, the Iraq War, and the Civil War combined and is among the top 10 leading causes of preventable in the US. Aside from the death and misery, drug abuse also costs us over $151 billion dollars annually. Overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990 with opioids accounting for roughly two-thirds of these fatalities. These numbers do not include the countless lives destroyed from the communicable diseases and health effects of drug misuse. These trends have become worse amid the pandemic which has produced a lethal cocktail of stress factors that have increased drug abuse and complicated treatment. Furthermore, some racial minority groups are disproportionately affected by America’s drug problem. While drug use is similar across racial lines, fatal overdose rates among black, and indigenous people of color in the United States have been increasing at faster rates than any other ethnic group since 2016.
While deaths from drug abuse are increasing, there are ways to cease the bleeding. Traditional policies adopted in the United States to curb drug misuse have often backfired by unintentionally incentivizing drug users to consume even more dangerous drugs than they would have in the absence of intervention. In fact, many experts believe that the rise in illicit fentanyl consumption in the United States—a powerful, and significantly more dangerous synthetic opioid—is the result of federal efforts to cut back opioid prescriptions. Many experts believe that alternative measures needed to be taken to save American individuals from drug misuse-related death.
Several policies make it possible for the United States to mitigate the drug misuse crisis it faces and simultaneously cut down on costs. A wide volume of evidence indicates that increasing spending on drug treatment and prevention saves the country money. For instance, California Proposition 36—a proposition approved by voters in 2000 that sent 35,000 individuals to drug treatment instead of prisons—cut down on governmental costs by over $1.5 billion in just seven years. However, many state and federal policies still favor attempting to combat the drug misuse crises in America by continuing to imprison drug users instead of increasing access to treatment. For example, close to half of all American states failed to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that all American states ensure that all insurance plans under their jurisdiction cover prescription medications that treat drug addictions. While there are many challenges to tackle drug misuse, America is in the position to make serious policy changes that could change the lives of millions. On April 1st, the Biden administration released a strategic drug policy plan that embraces many elements advocated by the drug reform policy community, such as enhancing evidence-based harm reduction efforts and expanding access to treatment. We have an opportunity to change the draconian and ineffective practices that have cost us so much and it is imperative that we act.
This timely symposium offers an opportunity for those working in substance abuse, healthcare, treatment and rehabilitation, law enforcement and community outreach to discuss strategies to improve treatment services, recovery support and prevention. Participants will discuss best practices for enhancing collaboration between stakeholders and consider ways to overcome challenges. Delegates will review recent policy developments and identify priorities for the future.
|9:30||Chair's Welcome and Introduction|
Speaker Presentations and Q&A
|Open Floor Discussion and Debate|
|13:00||Chair's Summary and Closing Comments|
|13:10||Close **All Times as Presented are in the Pacific Time Zone**
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