Updated Sep 30, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on COVID-19 and America’s opioid crisis

On Thursday, September 30, Axios senior editor Sam Baker and health care editor Tina Reed explored how government, private sector and community efforts are responding to upsurges in COVID-19 cases and opioid deaths, featuring Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Sen. Shelley Moore Capito highlighted how the COVID-19 crisis detracted attention from the addiction crisis all across the nation, the need to return to in-person crisis intervention teams despite the affordances of telemedicine, and how governments in West Virginia are refocusing efforts and resources on children and families affected by addiction.

  • On an example of localized intervention that helps West Virginia families: “There’s a program in West Virginia that started, it’s called Handle with Care. If a child is in a home and somebody maybe gets busted for drugs in the middle of the night, then that deputy or that sheriff who intervenes is going to call the school the next morning and say ‘Johnny has had a traumatic event in his family, please handle him with care.’”
  • On why the opioid crisis needs more government attention: “The numbers are staggering. The numbers of overdoses have gone way back up in the communities that were starting to see them go down, and so the families affected are going way up. I don’t think it’s going to take much for us to refocus on this simply because not only is it close to home, it’s expanding and it’s not getting better.”

Nora Volkow explained how pandemic stress and social isolation exacerbated addiction and how research is supporting better pain treatments so doctors don’t have to prescribe opiate medications.

  • On the recent significant increase in opioid overdose deaths: “It’s not surprising that in 2020, we’ve seen a 30% increase in the number of people that have died from overdoses from various types of drugs. The main culprits are opioids, of which the main driver is the very potent synthetic drug, fentanyl.”
  • On how current research is helping medical professionals combat this problem: “There are parallel tracks that aim to actually, on the one hand for example, advance research that actually can help us lead to better treatments of pain so that we don’t have to rely on opiate medications, that’s one component to it. And the other one is very much targeted, thoughtful understanding.”

Axios Chief Business Officer Fabricio Drumond hosted a View from the Top segment with Chief External and Government Relations Officer at Partnership to End Addiction

Marcia Lee Taylor, who discussed the role that stigma surrounding addiction plays in someone’s journey to recovery.

  • “Stigma is a giant stumbling block for people being able to get help. Unlike with other health conditions, people don’t talk to their doctor, they don’t talk to their neighbors. There’s a lot of shame about it because we for a long time in our country have treated addiction as a moral failing rather than a public health problem.”

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

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