Opioid Harm Reduction 201: The Rise of Fentanyl and What It Means for Harm Reduction
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● [Moderator] Stacey McKenna, Senior Fellow, R Street Institute
● Mona Bennett, Ambassador and Co-Founder, Atlanta Harm Reduction Coalition
● Lucinda Grande, MD, Physician, Pioneer Family Practice
● Jeffrey Singer, MD, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute
On average, there were more than 200 deaths per day from opioid overdoses in the United States in 2021. Since 2016, the majority of these deaths have been due to a synthetic opioid called fentanyl that has permeated the U.S. drug supply. The magnitude of the opioid crisis has garnered the attention of policymakers at all levels of government and left them looking for solutions. Harm reduction provides one of the most immediate ways to decrease deaths from fentanyl overdoses. From expanding access to naloxone—the drug that reverses overdoses—and medication for opioid use disorder to decriminalizing fentanyl test strips, there are a number of harm reduction policies that can save lives.
This panel will explain the rise of fentanyl in the U.S. drug supply, provide context to the impact of fentanyl on people who use drugs and describe how policies promoting harm reduction can help prevent overdoses.