The Role of the U.S Public Health Service in the Fight Against Opioid Overdose in America

Opioids are a class of drugs that include medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methadone, which are commonly prescribed to treat pain as well as illegal drugs such as heroin. Over the past 15 years, individuals, families, and communities across the United States have been tragically affected by the opioid epidemic with the number of overdoses from prescription and illicit opioids doubling from 21, 089 in 2010 to 42,249 in 2016. This steep increase is attributed to the rapid proliferation of illicitly made fentanyl and other highly potent synthetic opioids. These highly potent opioids are being mixed with heroin, sold alone as super potent heroin, pressed into counterfeit tablets to look like commonly misused prescription opioids or sedatives like Xanax and being mixed with other drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine.

With an estimated 2.1 million people in the U.S struggling with an opioid use disorder, the President’s initiative to ending opioid crisis in America include, reducing demand and over prescription, educating Americans about the dangers of opioid misuse, cutting down on the supply of illicit drugs by cracking down on the international and domestic supply chains, and helping those struggling with addiction through evidence based treatment and recovery support services.

The U.S Public Health Service Commissioned Corps headed by the U.S Surgeon General mission is to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the nation. As America’s uniform service of public health professionals, the commissioned corps achieves its missions through rapid and effective response to public health needs, leadership and excellence in public health practices and advancement of public health science. In support of the President’s initiative to ending America’s opioid crisis, U.S Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH has urge officers of the commissioned corps to get even more involved in the fighting against over prescribing and misuse of opioid paid medications. He also urges more Americans to carry naloxone, a life saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

Officers of the U.S Public Health Service Commissioned Corps take on many different jobs across the federal government, including foreign deployments that deal with life threatening conditions. But at the end of the day, many of them continue to serve on their own, finding various roles to play in the fight against opioid crisis in their communities by educating American’s about the dangers of opioid and connecting individuals with resources to help prevent addiction, and how to administer naloxone in the case of a suspected emergency.

By LT Lewis K. Antwi, MPH, MA
LT Lewis K. Antwi, MPH, MA Lieutenant