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Harriet Smith, director of education/services at the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition in Charles

Source: Harriet Smith, director of education/services at the Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition in Charles Village, holds a bag of syringes to give to clients as a public health / Getty

Last week, the Biden Administration submitted its first National Drug Control Strategy to Congress, as the drug crisis continues to soar. The administration’s plan places a large emphasis on harm reduction tools and proper funding to help drug enforcement shut down trafficking in affected areas.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been nearly 100,306 drug overdose-related deaths in the United States for the 12-month period ending April 2021. That represents a 28.5 percent increase from the 78,056 deaths during the same period the year before. States like Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Wisconsin have been hit hard by the drug epidemic.

Biden hopes to break down barriers between state limitations and drug resource accessibility

If the initiative is passed, harm reduction resources like naloxone, which can treat a narcotic overdose in an emergency situation, would be made readily available to underfunded communities. Democrats have also proposed the implementation of syringe service programs and overdose reduction classes to help educate users, but there many challenges ahead.

Some states have placed limitations and restrictions on who can legally administer or obtain life-saving drugs like naloxone or low threshold buprenorphine, a drug that could potentially treat opioid drug addiction. Even in states where those barriers don’t exist, naloxone does not always make it to those most at risk of an overdose. According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, “41.1 million people who needed treatment for substance use disorders (SUD), only 2.7 million (6.5-percent) of them received treatment at a specialty treatment facility over the previous year.”

Daliah Heller, the Vice-President of Drug Use Initiatives at global health organization Vital Strategies, applauded President Biden on the historic move.

“President Biden is right to prioritize harm reduction in his national drug control strategy. Without funding from Congress and states for harm reduction that matches the scale of this crisis, we won’t reverse the escalating tragedy of overdose in this country,” said Heller in a statement, pleading with Congress to consider making overdose prevention tools accessible for users.

“Over-the-counter naloxone is a necessary strategy to reduce overdose deaths and should be urgently prioritized,” she continued. “Administration support for overdose prevention centers and more robust recognition and enforcement of anti-discrimination protections for people who use drugs are other clear areas for improvement. Current restrictions on access to medications and other life-saving services means that people continue to die unnecessarily from a preventable overdose,” she added.

National Drug Control Strategy hopes to crack down on drug smuggling.

The President’s National Drug Control Strategy includes specific border protocols that, if passed, will strengthen federal law enforcement on the U.S. border, helping officials to quickly shut down drug organizations and criminal networks. The plan is also aimed at disrupting illicit finance efforts, targeting drug transportation routes, and modalities while reducing the transportation of drugs, the White House noted in its briefing statement.

“The Strategy also directs agencies to work with partner governments in drug-producing and transit countries to prevent illicit drugs from ever reaching our borders,” the outline adds.


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