Pictured above is the website's homepage, which allows Americans to search for the nearest clinic specializing in treating drug addiction near them
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A U.S. Government-backed website used by up to 300,000 people a month to help them fight drug addiction could cause deaths because it contains ‘invalid’ information, a doctor has claimed.

The site — called FindTreatment.gov — was set up in 2019 by then-President Donald Trump to link hundreds of thousands of Americans to their nearest clinic for battling drug dependency.

But Dr Cara Poland, an addiction specialist at a hospital in Michigan, warned the site now has ‘out-of-date’ information on what addictions clinics treat, and which insurance plans and age groups they accept.

Other experts alleged the site was not ‘gold standard’, and needed to include information on the quality of care given by clinics.

But a spokesman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — which runs the site — rejected the claims, arguing they made weekly updates whenever they were made aware of changed details.

He added that the website also surveys all clinics every year to ensure its information is up to date.

It came as the U.S. hit a record 108,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2021, with opioids such as fentanyl behind more than three in five fatalities.

Experts called for action, saying the figures showed the U.S. had passed yet another ‘devastating milestone’. A spokesman for the White House’s drug addiction office called the figures ‘unacceptable’.

Pictured above is the website's homepage, which allows Americans to search for the nearest clinic specializing in treating drug addiction near them

Pictured above is the website’s homepage, which allows Americans to search for the nearest clinic specializing in treating drug addiction near them

But Dr Cara Poland, an addiction specialist at a hospital in Michigan, warns the site now has 'out-of-date' information on it which could lead to deaths.

Then-President Donald Trump (pictured at a rally near the White House last year) set up the website

But Dr Cara Poland, an addiction specialist at a hospital in Michigan, (left) warns the site now has ‘out-of-date’ information on it which could lead to deaths. 

The above graph shows the CDC estimates for the number of deaths triggered by drug overdoses every year across the United States. It reveals figures have now reached a record high, and are surging on the last three years

Record 108,000 Americans died of a drug overdose in 2021 

Deaths from drug overdoses in the U.S. hit their highest level since records began last year, provisional figures showed Wednesday — with opioids including fentanyl behind nearly three in five fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated there were 107,622 fatalities linked to overdoses during 2021, or one every five minutes, marking a 15 percent uptick on the previous year’s record of 93,655 drug deaths and the seventh 12-month period in a row where they have risen.

Opioids including fentanyl were linked to the majority of fatalities, or 80,800, followed by psychostimulants such as methamphetamine at nearly 33,000. It was possible for more than one drug to be linked to a fatality.

Only one state — Hawaii — saw its deaths from overdoses decline last year, with Appalachian states like West Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania remaining the nation’s hotspots for fatalities.

The website carries the details of more than 13,000 clinics across all 50 U.S. states.

They offer people help with addictions to all drugs including fentanyl, cocaine and methamphetamines.

But slamming the website, Poland warned KHN: ‘It’s scary, because if you go to use the site, it’s got invalid information on it.

‘[With this] people give up and they can’t find treatment, and there we risk losing a life.

‘It’s being treated as a gold standard tool, but it’s not.’

Frank Greenagel, an addiction social worker in New Jersey, told the publication that the website needed to allow patients to sort clinics by quality.

He said it was ‘misguided’ to rely on state licensing, because clinics often list services on these that they never actually provide.

Other doctors, however, said the problems the website faced were more likely down to a lack of addiction treatment clinics available — an issue the website alone cannot solve.

Currently, the site allows users to filter clinics by treatment — detox, inpatient or outpatient — and whether or not they offer medication for opioid use disorder.

It does not include categories allowing clinics to be listed by the types of care offered, or whether they are more successful.

The initial vision when the website was founded was that it would make it easier to link Americans struggling with drugs to their nearest addiction clinic.

A SAMHSA  spokesman said the website ‘endeavors to keep tools current’.

When it is told about inaccurate information — such as an incorrect address, telephone number or type of service offered — an update is made.

They added that the website generally trusts state health departments to ensure that any clinic they are accrediting offers good quality treatment.

When the website was launched then-counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway said: ‘We know that the drug crisis is indiscriminate, so we want the response to be indiscriminate.

‘We designed it with human-centered principles in mind. We used real words for real people.’ 

It comes as deaths from drug overdoses in the U.S. hit their highest level since records began last year, provisional figures showed Wednesday — with opioids including fentanyl behind nearly three in five fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated there were 107,622 fatalities linked to drug overdoses during 2021, or one every five minutes, marking a 15 percent uptick on the previous year’s record of 93,655 drug deaths and the seventh 12-month period in a row where they have risen.

Opioids including fentanyl were linked to the majority of fatalities, or 80,800, followed by psychostimulants such as methamphetamine at nearly 33,000. It was possible for more than one drug to be linked to a fatality.

The above map shows the percentage change in drug overdose deaths by state across the U.S., each has seen a rise except for Hawaii. In Oklahoma deaths did not increase or decrease compared to previous years

The above map shows the percentage change in drug overdose deaths by state across the U.S., each has seen a rise except for Hawaii. In Oklahoma deaths did not increase or decrease compared to previous years 

Opioids including fentanyl (black line) were behind almost three in five fatalities from a drug overdose, CDC figures showed. The black opioids line includes deaths from synthetic opioids (brown) natural and semi-synthetic opioids (green), heroin (blue), and methadone (purple)

Opioids including fentanyl (black line) were behind almost three in five fatalities from a drug overdose, CDC figures showed. The black opioids line includes deaths from synthetic opioids (brown) natural and semi-synthetic opioids (green), heroin (blue), and methadone (purple)

Only one state — Hawaii — saw its deaths from overdoses decline last year, with Appalachian states like West Virginia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania remaining the nation’s hotspots for fatalities.

To combat the growing drug crisis last month President Joe Biden’s administration announced a national drug control strategy that aimed to tackle the crisis focused on untreated addiction and trafficking.

Survey figures from 2020 showed that among the 41.1 million people who needed treatment for substance use disorders (SUD), only 2.7 million (6.5 percent) had received treatment at a specialist facility in the last year.

The administration is seeking to expand access to life-saving treatments such as naloxone, drug test strips and syringe services programs.

It has also requested a budget increase for border control and drug enforcement agencies to stem the flow of illegal drugs.

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