FDA Voices: FDA's Overdose Prevention Framework Aims to Prevent Drug Overdoses and Reduce Death

In 2021, a record number of Americans – more than 107,000 – died from drug overdoses. While the loss of human life alone is staggering, we know that the effects of the drug overdose crisis are even broader, including enormous individual and societal costs as people and families grapple with substance use disorder (SUD). Due to this unfortunate reality, in 2017 the opioid crisis was determined to be a public health emergency, which to this day is still in effect. Today’s drug overdose crisis is multifaceted and has evolved beyond prescription opioids. Illicit opioids, largely driven by fentanyl and its analogues, have become key contributors. Other controlled substances, including benzodiazepines and stimulants (particularly methamphetamine), also are being used in combination with opioids. Recent data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlight the magnitude and urgency of the issue and the need for attention to equity. By SAMHSA’s latest estimates, 18.4 million people suffer from illicit drug use disorders. In addition, the increase in drug overdose deaths, while accelerating in all demographics, is particularly growing among non-Hispanic Black and non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native populations. Rural Americans are also increasingly affected by SUD. Furthermore, effective SUD treatment and holistic intervention centers are less likely to be available in racial and ethnic minority and rural communities.