Fighting the Opioid Epidemic: The APA’s Call to Action


After the largest increase in overdose deaths in 50 years, the American Psychiatric Association sends out the call for improved substance use care.

drugs, opioids, opioid overdose, overdose epidemic, opioid epidemic


According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overdose deaths in 2020 are up 30% compared to 2019, the largest increase in at least 50 years. In response to the deaths of more than 93,000 Americans from drug overdoses, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) renewed its call to action.1

“This week’s CDC report is a devastating reminder that the opioid crisis continues and, as we suspected, reached tragically high levels during the pandemic,” said Vivian Pender, MD, APA President. “It’s critical that policymakers continue to take action to save lives, and that families and patients know that treatment works.”

The APA stated the following 3 items are important to focus on:

1) Improved access to mental health and substance use care via early identification in evidence-based models that integrate behavioral health treatment into primary care services.

2) The development and implementation of science-based policies and programs to provide effective substance use disorder treatment for all patients, created through a review and discussion with Congress, federal policymakers, and experts in the field of addiction treatment.

3) Policies and programs to support accredited medical schools and residency programs in training clinicians to manage substance use disorders.

“The federal government and the states have taken a number of actions to address the opioid crisis, and APA has been supportive of those actions,” said APA CEO and Medical Director Saul Levin, MD, MPA. “A critical step in addressing the problem is ensuring early identification of substance use disorders and that all physicians have the adequate training to recognize and treat opioid use and substance use disorders when they see it.”

(Are you seeing increased cases of opioid use disorder (OUD)? Do you have any pressing concerns or questions about OUD or success stories to share? Write to us at Your story may be included in an upcoming special discussion on OUD—Ed)


1. American Psychiatric Association. American Psychiatric Association renews call to action after dramatic increase in overdose deaths. July 16, 2021. Accessed July 19, 2021.

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