SJ Quinney College of Law, University of Utah


Between 1999 and 2017, almost 400,000 people died from opioid overdoses, and since 2001, the opioid crisis has cost the U.S. more than 1 trillion dollars. In late 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary opined that the country was “beginning to turn the tide” in responding to the crisis. Secretary Azar’s positive statements were based on preliminary CDC data that showed a national decline of 2.7 percent in drug overdose deaths from October 2017 to May 2018. However, data still show over half the states posting an increase in overdose deaths with a concentration of higher death rates in the upper Midwest and Appalachia. Recent sobering data from CDC, also showed a national decline in life expectancy for the third year in a row. A 2018 McKinsey report argued that the number of persons suffering from opioid use disorder (“OUD”) is likely to be an underestimate with the actual number being between four and six million persons. Even if the most optimistic projections about opioid overdose deaths proved correct, we will still face new dangers in fentanyl cocktails, as it is mixed with other street or diverted drugs such as Methamphetamine, cocaine, or benzodiazepines. Neither is there any evidence that we are now better prepared for the next addiction crisis.