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Watchdog Critiques DEA Role in Opioid Crisis

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) authorized large increases in the production of painkillers despite the growing number of opioid-related deaths in the U.S., according to review from a government watchdog office released last week.

The Justice Department’s inspector general said the DEA was “slow to respond” to the opioid crisis. More than 300,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses since 2000. Although the DEA is the federal agency that most directly oversees opioid access, it authorized manufacturers to produce substantially larger amounts of the drugs, the report says.

The DEA increased production quotas for oxycodone by about 400 percent from 2002 to 2013, “despite evidence that opioids were being overprescribed and misused,” The New York Times reports.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), Americans are now more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than a motor vehicle crash.

A 2019 NSC survey found that 75 percent of U.S. employers have been directly affected by opioid use, but only 17 percent feel extremely well prepared to deal with the issue. Thirty-one percent reported an overdose, an arrest, a near-miss, or an injury because of employees’ opioid use.

Andrew Kolodny, a director of opioid policy research at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University told the Times that the report is too narrowly focused on the DEA, missing the influence exerted by the pharmaceutical industry and distributor industry.

Currently, nearly 2,300 cases from cities, counties, and tribes across the U.S. are seeking reparations for the opioid epidemic. Perdue Pharma, the maker of opioid OxyContin, has filed for bankruptcy in the face of legal action related to the epidemic.

Read more about the opioid crisis, its impact on employees and workplaces, and what security professionals can do about it in the forthcoming November 2019 issue of Security Management.