With all that we’ve endured over the past two years with the pandemic, it may have been easy to forget how, prior to COVID, the damage of opioids was tearing families apart. Anxiety and isolation spurred by COVID worsened the deadly impact of what was already a national public health crisis. And now, the pandemic has ended, and opioid-related deaths are still on the rise – right here in Missouri.
The latest data from Missouri’s Drug Overdose Dashboard follows national patterns, with a nearly 26% increase in opioid overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020, the first year of the pandemic. This trend will continue unless we take a comprehensive approach that treats addiction as a disease, rather than as a crime.
Fortunately, we are seeing a departure from the United States’ failed war on drugs agenda as more states implement harm reduction strategies that focus on improving the health of individuals while reducing the harmful risks associated with substance use disorders. These measures can promote safer use, decrease stigma, and connect individuals to essential health and social services. They are part of an effective continuum of care and are critical to saving people’s lives.
With Missouri set to receive $458 million in opioid settlement funding from major distributors to use for treatment and prevention of opioid use disorder, we have the resources to get people what they need to live healthy lives. In our latest policy brief, we share several harm reduction strategies policymakers can support to curb this growing epidemic.
Read more in our latest brief, Reducing Opioid Deaths in Missouri: Harm Reduction Strategies.