End the Overdose Crisis & War on Drugs Now!

Over 108,000 people died from preventable overdoses last year - the worst in recorded history. No matter what we look like or where we come from, the overdose crisis reminds us that at our core we are all human. Our ability to get and stay well depends on everyone having what we need to prevent, treat, and recover from illness.

When it comes to the overdose crisis ravaging our communities, a powerful few try to distract us from the role they have played in passing failed 'tough on crime' policies, and letting drug corporations flood our communities with painkillers while healthcare lobbyists deny us the treatments and resources we need.

Now is the time to stand up and demand proven solutions from our politicians - like accessible healthcare, life-saving treatments, and harm reduction measures - to stop preventable overdose deaths, and to pull through the crisis by pulling together.

Learn More About Our Federal-Level Priorities

The Drug Enforcement Agency’s X-Waver requirement stops doctors, nurses and physicians’ assistants from prescribing buprenorphine, a highly effective form of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), to patients. Based on three decades of evidence, public health experts now widely agree MAT, which reduces withdrawal symptoms and prevents relapse, is the most effective way to save the lives of those with opioid use disorder. MAT is the gold standard for treatment of opioid use disorder, and buprenorphine is considered especially effective. 

The overdose crisis is ravaging our communities, and the redundant, outdated and stigmatizing X-Waiver requirement stops people from getting care that can save their lives. It most deeply harms Black, brown and rural communities. Black individuals who seek treatment are far less likely to be offered life-saving MAT than white individuals. To effectively respond to the urgency of the overdose epidemic, we need to eliminate barriers like the X-Waiver that prevent healthcare practitioners from providing evidence-based treatments like buprenorphine for substance use disorders.

The MAT Act will remove this barrier to treatment and save lives, which is why we need it now.

Use our tool to contact your senator and tell them to pass the MAT Act NOW!

Over recent years, there has been an increase in overdose deaths involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid pain reliever patients are introduced to in post-op, acute pain and end-of-life situations. Due to its potency, fentanyl has a high potential for dependence. Fentanyl has found its way into the street drug supply, where people are often unaware this highly potent drug is present. This increases the likelihood of overdoses and death. 

Starting in 2018, Congress gave the Drug Enforcement Administration unprecedented new powers to classify and criminalize all fentanyl analogues - in existence or not - as Schedule I controlled drugs, with the harshest penalties and mandatory minimum sentences, whether or not a person is aware of their presence. 

This is the wrong approach. The War on Drugs, in its fifty years of existence, has entirely failed to reduce overdose deaths or reduce drug use in the country. Instead, the United States now leads the world in incarceration, with 2.12 million people behind bars and is in the midst of an overdose epidemic.

Since the classwide scheduling of fentanyl analogues went into effect in 2018, fentanyl-related overdose deaths have skyrocketed. Criminalization has not proven to save lives by stopping overdoses. Instead, this has ruined many more lives through incarceration rather than focusing on public health solutions. 

To respond to the urgency of the overdose crisis, the United States needs to transform its response with bold new solutions based on evidence that are proven to save lives, and deliver critical resources and information to people most at risk of an overdose.

People's Action Institute's Overdose Crisis Cohort

People’s Action Institute’s Overdose Crisis Cohort is working to develop a multiracial strategy that unites urban, suburban and rural communities and shifts responses to the crisis from those that stigmatize and criminalize drug users to those that center compassion and open up space for public health and harm reduction solutions at the local, state, and federal levels. We have been rooting our work in an understanding of the racist underpinnings and racialized impact of the War on Drugs, explicitly recognizing its impact on today’s context, while simultaneously recognizing the hardships faced by rural and white working class communities as well.

The War on Drugs has the potential to be one of the great uniters - or dividers - in our country. Our member organizations have been moving and/ or exploring work at a range of levels in a number of states, including: Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont, and West Virginia.

We are people who use drugs, people in recovery, harm reductionists, and people who have lost loved ones due to the War on Drugs and the Overdose Crisis. We come from urban, small town, suburban and rural communities and from Black, white, and brown constituencies. We are united by our shared experiences as survivors of the failed war on drugs and the overdose crisis.  Together we are taking action for a future where all of us are valued and supported to live fulfilling, healthy lives - no matter our relationship to substances. 


Cohort Values:

  • We build power together
  • We believe in Everybody in, Nobody out
  • We meet people where they’re at
  • We are curious - questions are good!
  • We are always  learning & growing
  • We root the work in the experience of those who have lived through the drug war and overdose
  • We know that good intentions and well written reports don't change the world, but organizing people to action does. Everything we do must be in support of the larger goal of building power.


Our Vision:

  • Ending the Failed Drug War: For too long our communities have been divided, isolated and harmed by the failed War on Drugs. The modern day War on Drugs began during the Nixon administration in 1971 as a means to control and criminalize Black and brown communities as well as anti-war protesters. As people with lived experience, we know all too well that “tough love” and the criminalization/incarceration of people who use and sell drugs has only made the overdose crisis worse. By ending the failed war on drugs we can save lives from preventable overdose, eliminate stigma and restore dignity to people who use drugs.  
  • Compassion & Public Health over Punishment & Criminalization: People who use drugs and people in recovery are our friends, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and us. For too long, the systems we were told are meant to help us and our loved ones have only harmed us further. Together we are fighting for  a compassionate approach to drug use and universal access to public health & harm reduction tools to support people who use drugs instead of mechanisms of punishment and criminalization;
  • Significant Investment in the Care That Puts People First: investing at scale in innovative strategies is essential to addressing the evolving epidemic and turning the tide of its progression; we are fighting to get big money and profits out of the substance use treatment industry;
  • Evidence-based Solutions: ensuring that solutions advanced are ones that have been shown to work through science and lived experience experts not ones that are based on stigmas, stereotypes and fear; 


Core Principles of the Work:

  • Centering Those Directly Affected: We believe that the people who experience a problem are the experts at finding the solutions. Here, we center the voices of people directly experiencing the war on drugs and the overdose crisis . People who have been incarcerated due to the drug war, people who use drugs, people in recovery, and those who have lost loved ones to preventable overdose lead the struggle for liberation around this issue, while aligning with others that support their struggle and help them build their power.
  • Awareness of Historic Context: We understand how the War on Drugs targets communities of color around drug use in racist ways as a form of control, and see in the present moment how the legacy of this historic response impacts us all negatively.
  • Unity in Struggle: While we recognize the racism inherent in historic & modern day policies and how white supremacy has led us to this moment, we strive to now build across race, class, and geography (urban/ suburban/ rural) to fight back.
  • Harm Reduction to Save Lives: We see harm reduction - a public health philosophy and intervention that seeks to reduce the harms associated with drug use and ineffective drug policies - as essential to the health and dignity of drug users, to our approach and to saving lives.


Key Federal Level Priorities:

  • Universal access to harm reduction tools - narcan, syringes, overdose prevention centers, housing
  • Universal access to evidence-based treatment supports - expanding access to medication assisted treatment through removing the X-waiver, decriminalizing buprenorphine 
  • Remove drugs from the criminal justice system - end incarceration for drug-related crimes, stopping jail expansion, no forced treatment through the courts system

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