Steps the U.S. government should take right now against the opioid epidemic

The Food and Drug Administration should consider banning “ultra-high-dosage” painkillers from the market, and law enforcement must step up efforts to curb the flow of heroin and fentanyl into the United States if the nation hopes to come to grips with the opioid epidemic, two authorities on the crisis said Thursday.

Andrew Kolodny, co-director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, and Thomas R. Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said a comprehensive approach to the crisis also should include greatly restricting or eliminating the marketing of opioids for chronic pain; better insurance coverage and access to alternative pain treatments; and expansion of treatment and “harm reduction” measures such as needle exchange programs.

“There are no simple solutions to ending this epidemic,” Kolodny and Frieden wrote in an opinion article released Thursday in JAMA, the influential journal of the American Medical Association. “Effective programs need to address two separate priorities: prevention of addiction among people not currently addicted, and treatment and risk reduction to prevent overdose and death among the millions of individuals in the United States now addicted.”

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