Biden to unveil new US drug and overdose strategy

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FILE – President Joe Biden speaks before signing the U.S. bailout, a coronavirus relief package, in the Oval Office of the White House, March 11, 2021, in Washington. Biden releases a draft budget that tries to tell voters what the diverse and sometimes fractured Democratic Party stands for. He calls for higher taxes for the wealthy, lower budget deficits, more money for the police and increased funding for education, public health and housing. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

(AP) – President Joe Biden sends his administration’s first national drug control strategy to Congress as the number of overdose deaths in the United States hits a new high of nearly 107,000 in the past 12 months .

The strategy, released Thursday, is the first national plan to prioritize so-called harm reduction, said Dr. Rahul Gupta, White House substance abuse adviser. This means that it focuses on preventing death and illness among drug addicts while trying to involve them in care and treatment.

The strategy calls for changes in state laws and policies to support the expansion of harm reduction.

“Too often these drugs end up in communities where naloxone is not readily available,” Gupta said Wednesday, referring to the drug that can revive users who have overdosed, “where harm reduction services are restricted or underfunded, where there are barriers to treatment.

The American Medical Association has advocated for naloxone to be available over the counter. Test strips that prevent overdoses by checking medications for fentanyl and clean syringe programs are other examples of harm reduction.

Harm reduction prevents overdoses, reduces infectious disease transmission, and “as stated in a recent Congressional committee report, it has bipartisan support,” Gupta said.

The first physician to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gupta will oversee the strategy, which also includes:

— Targeting the financial activities of transnational criminal organizations that manufacture and traffic illicit drugs in the United States.

— Reduce the supply of illicit drugs smuggled across US borders.

— Improve the data systems and research that guide drug policy.

— Ensure that those most at risk of overdose can benefit from evidence-based treatments, including people who are homeless and those who are in jail or prison.

“Anyone who wants treatment should be able to get it,” Gupta said.

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