Calls for action in the opioid crisis are missing nuance and preventive thinking.
This is not to minimize the urgency of addressing the crisis, but to encourage deeper thinking before simply asking for more, which is not an effective request in a system with finite resources.
Context is critical to the success of interventions for complex issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the context of substance use — from patterns of use to accessibility of harm-reduction services, to availability of treatment options, to burnout of frontline workers.
Thus, like every other aspect of our lives and societies, responses to the opioid crisis need to shift.
The government and health authorities have facilitated this shift, at least to some extent.
Recognizing their efforts is important because “doing more” is not always possible or strategic amid resources and time being diverted into adapting responses.
The glaring piece that is still missing is preventive strategy or action — not only to prevent overdose, but to prevent substance use from becoming harmful in the first place.
Rarely, if ever, does addressing the complex roots of harmful substance use get brought into the conversation.
If this had been prioritized earlier, I wonder if we would have seen such a significant increase in overdose deaths when the pandemic struck and Band-Aid responses were rendered ineffective.