Opioid overdoses claimed nearly 70,000 lives in 2017. Unless something is done to deflect this toxic trajectory, the death toll could exceed 500,000 over the next decade. How can we successfully confront this public health menace?
Individuals may start using opioids for medical or recreational purposes. The risk of addiction increases when:
opioids are used with other drugs,
opioids are prescribed at higher doses than is medically appropriate, or
opioids are used recreationally.
Treatment can help users who become addicted. Opioid misuse increases the risk of multiple harms, including car accidents, health problems, dependence, and fatal or non-fatal overdose. RAND work presents a comprehensive view of this dynamic crisis, highlighting which stage a policy is designed to address and noting when policies focused on one stage may have unintended consequences elsewhere.
The COVID-19 pandemic struck just as the national response to the opioid crisis was beginning to coalesce. Some disruptions in the care of patients with opioid use disorder are inevitable, but planning and support can limit excessive disruption.