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American Psychiatric Association Renews Call to Action After Dramatic Increase in Overdose Deaths

  • July 16, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 16, 2021 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report this week revealing a 30% increase in overdose deaths in 2020 compared to 2019. This constitutes the largest increase in at least 50 years and represents the deaths of more than 93,000 Americans from drug overdoses.

“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 American Psychiatric Association (APA) President Vivian Pender, M.D. “It’s critical that policymakers continue to take action to save lives, and that families and patients know that treatment works.”

APA renews its calls for:

  • Improved access to mental health and substance use services through early identification in evidence-based models that integrate behavioral health treatment into primary care services.
  • The development and implementation of science-based policies and programs to end the opioid epidemic and provide effective substance use disorder treatment for all patients, based on a thorough review and discussion with Congress, federal policymakers, and experts in the field of addiction treatment.
  • Policies and programs to support accredited medical schools and residency programs in training clinicians to manage substance use disorders, as well as incentivize more educators, consultants, and physician leaders to be in roles to develop an addiction workforce.

“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, M.D., M.P.A. “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.”

Anyone impacted by substance use disorders can learn more on APA’s website.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association, founded in 1844, is the oldest medical association in the country. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,400 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. For more information please visit


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