If you've been following the news, you know 2023 is shaping up to be a potentially game-changing year in the battle against the opioid epidemic.
In the final days of 2022, President Biden signed the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment (MAT) Act into law; the legislation aims to make it easier for underserved communities to access addiction care and eliminate barriers to medication-assisted treatment, among other initiatives.
In other developments, the Justice Department has pushed forward lawsuits against Big Pharma companies, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is urging state governments to ease restrictions on access to methadone for opioid use disorder treatment, overdose prevention sites continue to save lives despite opposition from some lawmakers, and early data from the CDC suggest overdose deaths may be declining month to month.
There's more: A vaccine that prevents fentanyl from reaching the brain is in early development, and the FDA is reviewing a proposal that Narcan be made available in pharmacies across the country, over the counter with no prescription. The nasal-spray version of the harm-reduction medication naloxone halts opioid overdoses and is easy for anyone to carry and administer to a person in danger. The FDA is set to make its decision by March 29. Healthline filled in more details in its latest Wellness Wire newsletter:
According to 2020 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioid overdose deaths has quintupled since 1999. The opioid epidemic is devastating, and we're in desperate need of breakthroughs to reduce its effects on individuals and families. Fortunately, we have two exciting, lifesaving updates to share on this front.
Narcan (naloxone) will soon become available over the counter. This nasal spray treats opioid overdoses in adults and children by temporarily reversing the effects (while you wait for emergency medical treatment and intervention). It's likely to become available for purchase OTC from pharmacies without a prescription within months, allowing more people to carry it with them and save the lives of folks who may have overdosed. (Read about Narcan side effects here.)
A fentanyl vaccine is in the works. Researchers have announced promising results for a new vaccine that may block fentanyl from entering a person's brain. This vaccine might help to reduce overdoses and assist people in their OUD recovery journey with minimal side effects. However, the shot has only been tested on rats, so more research is needed to explore its potential for helping humans. Any progress is progress though!
According to the fentanyl vaccine researchers, "over 150 people die every day from overdoses of synthetic opioids including fentanyl, which is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine." We look forward to seeing how these developments improve and save lives once they become accessible.
Read more from Healthline.