Opioid advisory is long overdue

The U.S. surgeon general has done something that has not been done in 13 years. Dr. Jerome Adams issued an advisory.

The last one was about the dangers of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. Adams’ new advisory concerns the opioid abuse epidemic sweeping the nation. Too many Americans are well aware, sometimes for tragically personal reasons, of the magnitude of the crisis.

Use of the drug naloxone, which can revive victims of opioid overdoses, was the focus of Adams’ advisory. Noting that “knowing how to use naloxone and keeping it within reach can save a life,” the surgeon general emphasized, “Be prepared. Get naloxone. Save a life.”

Having a supply of naloxone handy and knowing how to use it is important for anyone who may come in contact with an opioid overdose victim, Adams added. That includes members of drug addicts’ families.

Adams followed up his advice on naloxone with something just as important. Drug addicts can get help, he stressed. He suggests they and family members should call a national helpline (800-662-4357) or go online to www.findtreat

ment.samhsa.gov.

It is good advice. But what took so long? Why did Adams and his predecessors wait for so many years?

Deaths from overdoses of heroin, cocaine, prescription pain pills, synthetic drugs and methamphetamines have been on an upward trajectory since at least 1999. The upward curve became even steeper in 2011-12, when 40,000 drug abuse-related deaths were recorded. The annual death toll now approaches 70,000.

Federal officials have been too slow to take the drug abuse crisis seriously. It is to be hoped Adams’ initiative marks a reversal of that foot-dragging attitude.

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