Facts About Drugs and Treatment: A Forecast for 2018

teenage girl sadly staring at a pile of pills

The opioid problem in America was declared a national crisis by the President at the end of 2017. In recent times, we have seen unprecedented addiction in America, with more and more families seeking a drug abuse treatment center to help with the problem.

Recent developments reported by The New York Times and other outlets include:

  • More than 22 million Americans age 12 and older use illegal drugs.
  • Over 2 million people in the United States are struggling with opioid use disorders. This opioid epidemic has made treatment of this problem a priority.
  • 64,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses in 2016.
  • Use of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl is up from 3,000 per year to 20,000 per year.
  • Currently, 127,000 people are dying from drugs, alcohol and suicide but it is predicted that deaths from drugs, alcohol and suicide will spike to 1.6 million.

Addiction Treatment Forecast

“Increasing rates of substance abuse and suicide continue to plague our society,” says Michael Desjardins, APRN PMHNP-BC, the psychiatric supervisor at Journey Healing Centers. “At the same time, we seem to be moving forward with community-based programs along with technological expertise at unprecedented rates. Shared data in the digital age will be important for trends in 2018.” 

Here are some of the trends being discussed and explored:

1. Reducing overdose mortality

The projected increase in destruction due to the opioid epidemic has created the need for as many areas of intervention as possible, including public health/public safety partnership initiatives and programs executed on the local level. There are already dozens of federal, state and municipal agencies that share data and coordinate strategies. There are also programs on the front lines, involving the training of emergency medicine doctors, EMS workers, and police and fire department professionals on how to halt an overdose in progress.

2. Fentanyl testing

Illicitly made fentanyl (IMF) and other potent, rapid-acting synthetic opioids have added to the increase in addiction and overdose rates. There may be more of a search for evidence-based interventions on the community level to provide field-based methods of fentanyl checking and reducing the harm of the drug. One suggestion may include a drug testing strip that informs people of the existence of IMF before drug use.

3. Heroin interventions

There will be more research into the association between prescribed opioid abuse and heroin use, and how it progresses into addiction. Research has suggested there are more overdoses among the commercially-insured then there were with Medicaid patients. Understanding the health situation and medical care in the six months leading up to addiction or overdose can help with the development of preventive strategies.

4. Educating medical professionals

Although there is awareness of the opioid crisis and how it can begin with pain medicine prescribed in emergency rooms and by primary physicians, there is still more education needed on best prescribing practices and also catching drug addiction before it begins. Physicians will be prescribing less or refusing unnecessary prescriptions and there will be greater effort toward referral to a drug abuse treatment center and psychological counseling.

5. Data-driven strategies

Information can save lives. Mapping public health outcomes will be more prevalent. The Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program (ODMAP) is one web-based tool that provides overdose surveillance data. It links first responders on scene to a mapping tool to track overdoses to stimulate real-time response and strategic analysis across jurisdictions. Sharing data will give first responders more overdose prevention insights and tools.

6. Children of drug abuse

The addiction epidemic is impacting families in a dramatic way, as more children suffer the trauma of addiction-related abuse and neglect. In some cases, the epidemic is forcing children into foster care if one or more of their parents becomes an addict or has an overdose. Creating a multifaceted team response at the community level can address suspected abuse or neglect; it may also predict future abuse. Understanding abuse and neglect patterns can inform law enforcement officials who deal with this on the front lines. It may also help to get troubled parents into a drug abuse treatment center at an earlier stage.

7. Drug treatment courts

With high rates of continued drug use, relapse and sometimes overdose the courts will be flooded with drug-related cases. Many local jurisdictions already have implemented drug treatment courts. It is a court that aims to refer people to treatment rather than send them for incarceration and seeks ways to solve the problem.

“There has been an initiative with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to develop a clearinghouse and trusted resource for treatment options,” says Desjardins. “These evidence-based treatment initiatives are the gold standard for effective medical care and intervention. It will put treatments that have withstood the rigors of the scientific research at the fingertips of anyone trying to help in the war on drug addiction and overdose.”

Every effort to educate people, share resources and digitize information for easy access will contribute toward combatting addiction and saving lives.


“Drug Deaths Are Rising Faster than Ever” – New York Times

“Fentanyl Drug Overdose Deaths” – New York Times

“Illicit Drug Use, Illicit Drug Use Disorders, and Drug Overdose Deaths in Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Areas” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

“Drug Abuse Trend Statistics” – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)

“Emerging Trend Alerts” – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)

“Nationwide Drug Facts” – National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH)

“World Drug Report 2017: 29.5 Million People Globally Suffer From Drug Use Disorders, Opioids The Most Harmful” – United Nations Office on Drug and Crime

“Drug Addiction as a Risk for Suicide” – National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)

“Deaths from Drugs, Alcohol and Suicide Could Hit 1.6 million” – USA Today

“Alcohol Facts and Statistics” – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

“Pharmacy Trends 2018” – Wolters Kluwer

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