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October 24/31, 2017

Reframing the Opioid Epidemic as a National Emergency

Author Affiliations
  • 1O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
  • 2Center for Public Health Law and Policy, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University, Phoenix
  • 3University of Pennsylvania Law School, Philadelphia
JAMA. 2017;318(16):1539-1540. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.13358

On August 10, 2017, President Trump announced his intention to declare a national emergency following the recommendation of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.1 Opioid abuse is among the most consequential preventable public health threats facing the nation. More than 600 000 deaths have occurred to date, with 180 000 more predicted by 2020.2 Of the 20.5 million US residents 12 years or older with substance use disorders in 2015, 2 million were addicted to prescription pain relievers.3 A declaration of a national emergency authorizes public health powers, mobilizes resources, and facilitates innovative strategies to curb a rapidly escalating public health crisis.

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