The figures from a government survey released on Friday show some progress in the fight against the current crisis of opioid addiction in the United States. UU., With fewer people in 2017 who use heroin for the first time compared to the previous year.
The number of new heroin users decreased from 170,000 in 2016 to 81,000 in 2017, a one-year drop that would need to be maintained for years to make a difference in fatal overdoses, experts said.
Fewer Americans are abusing or are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers and more people are receiving treatment for heroin and opiate addiction.
The use of methamphetamines, cocaine and marijuana is increasing, and mental health is still in an upward spiral, according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
The number of new heroin users fell in 2017 for the first time in many years. Politicians applaud the government's efforts, but experts are cautious since the consumption of other drugs is still high
The Trump administration said positive trends show that the government's efforts are working.
The messages reach people about the dangers of heroin and the deadly pollutants it often contains on the street, said Elinore McCance-Katz, an administration health official, in a video presentation published with the figures.
"The" opiate crisis "has been in the news for several years, combined with major public health efforts aimed at educating people about the dangers of heroin, particularly heroin contaminated with fentanyl, perhaps people finally understand how terribly dangerous this drug can be, "said Dr. Timothy Brennan, an addiction specialist at Mt Sinai Hospital in New York. Daily Mail online.
McCance-Katz's announcement comes despite repeated complaints from experts that the only specific efforts the Trump administration has funded are "awareness" campaigns.
The Senate has prepared a bill full of plans to address the US opiate epidemic. But some worry that it does not provide a crucial component: money.
It focuses largely on the expansion of efforts to block the importation of heroin and, especially, fentanyl, as well as adjustments to the statute to make the treatment of addiction more accessible to more people.
Although these efforts are useful, it is predicted that the budget for them will be around $ 8 billion, well below the amount that most experts have suggested is necessary.
The bill is expected to pass easily to the Senate, but even with the encouraging results of the new poll and the promise of legislative action, experts say we are not out of the woods yet.
"I'm sure many politicians will stumble across them trying to claim credit for these public health successes, but the truth is that there will be another addiction" crisis "in the United States," said Dr. Brennan.
Marijuana use increased in all age groups, except adolescents, with 2.5 percent of those over 26, or 5.3 million adults, who reported that they used marijuana every day or almost all of them. days last year.
The consumption of methamphetamine and cocaine increased in young adults, between 18 and 25 years old. The rebound may indicate that users are shifting from opiates to other drugs, said Leo Beletsky, an expert in public health policy at Northeastern University in Boston.
And young adults have increasing rates of serious mental illness, major depression and suicidal thoughts.
The number of new heroin users in 2017 – 81,000 – was lower than the numbers in most years between 2009 and 2016. But it was similar to the number of new heroin users in 2002 through 2008.
Experts said there is still work to be done to declare success.
"While this decrease in heroin use is welcome news, lawmakers and policy makers must remain committed to addiction prevention, physician education and treatment programming," said Dr. Brennan.
"Taken together, this does not look like the portrait of a nation with improved mental health and addiction problems," said Brendan Saloner, an addiction researcher at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University.
"It's hard to see this and not think that we have to be doing a better job than what we are doing now."