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Shift Occurring in Deadly Overdoses

FRIDAY, Aug. 14, 2020 -- There has been a dramatic increase in overdose fatalities involving illicit opioids, stimulants, heroin, and cocaine but a simultaneous dramatic drop in the use of prescription opioids, according to the Opioid Task Force 2020 Progress Report released by the American Medical Association (AMA).

The AMA convened the AMA Opioid Task Force in 2014. The task force includes representatives from more than 25 national, specialty, and state medical associations who are committed to providing evidence-based recommendations and leadership to help end the opioid epidemic.

The report shows that opioid prescribing decreased for a sixth year in a row (a drop of 37.1 percent, or more than 90 million opioid prescriptions between 2014 and 2019). There was a continued increase in Prescription Drug Monitoring Program registrations (a 64.4 percent increase from 2018 and a more than 1,100 percent increase since 2014). More physicians are certified to treat opioid use disorder. More than 85,000 physicians and a growing number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants are certified to treat opioid use disorder with in-office buprenorphine (an increase of more than 50,000 since 2017). There were more than 1 million naloxone prescriptions dispensed in 2019 (twice as many as in 2018 and a 649 percent increase from 2017). Policy solutions to remove barriers to evidence-based care are lagging.

"It is past time for policymakers, health insurers, pharmacy chains, and pharmacy benefit managers to remove barriers to evidence-based care for patients with pain and those with a substance use disorder," AMA Opioid Task Force Chair Patrice A. Harris, M.D., said in a statement.

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