Keck School’s Bluthenthal quoted in NYT story on rising overdose deaths

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Ricky Bluthenthal, PhD, professor of preventive medicine and Associate Dean for Social Justice, was quoted in a July 15 story in The New York Times on the rising number of drug-overdose deaths in the U.S.

OD deaths fell for the first time in a quarter-century in 2018 but surged 5 percent last year. Nearly 72,000 Americans died from overdoses, pushing down overall life expectancy in the U.S., according to preliminary data from the CDC. The story continued:

As part of the public health emergency, the federal government did something unheard-of: It relaxed rules around prescribing methadone and buprenorphine, two common and effective treatments for opioid use disorder. Methadone clinics are now free to dispense up to four weeks’ worth of the medication at once rather than requiring daily visits, and doctors are no longer required to meet with a patient in person before prescribing buprenorphine. The loosening of rules requiring mental health visits to be held in-person has also expanded access to counseling, several researchers said.

The changes were celebrated by the public health community, according to Ricky Bluthenthal, a professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California: “Making these medications more widely available is huge. That’s a real thing.”

Although the increasing numbers largely predate the COVID-19 pandemic, there are reasons to believe the pandemic — and the isolation it brings — could worsen the trend.

Read the full story:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/07/15/upshot/drug-overdose-deaths.html