Confronting the Opioid Crisis

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.

An In-Depth Look at RAND Opioid Research
  • Close up of a newborn leg viewed through an incubator, photo by Kwangmoozaa/Getty Images

    Research Brief

    Mar 14, 2019

    The Ecology of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

    Newborns exposed to opioids before birth can experience withdrawal symptoms known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). From 2009 to 2015, the average NAS rate per 1,000 hospital births across eight states rose from about six to more than 25.

What's Hot Now

  • Overhead view of a newborn baby in a hospital nursery, photo by RyanJLane/Getty Images


    Rates of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: Interactive Tool

    Mar 15, 2019

    Rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which occurs in newborns who were exposed to opioids in the womb, have increased dramatically over the past decade. This web-based tool displays the rates of NAS from 2009 to 2015 by county in eight states.

  • A supervised injection site for people who use drugs, in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 28, 2018, photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters


    Addressing Federal Conflicts Over Supervised Drug Consumption Sites

    Mar 14, 2019

    With drug overdose deaths mounting, some American cities are trying to create designated spaces where people who use heroin and other drugs can have their consumption supervised by medical professionals. The Department of Justice argues these sites would violate federal law, but federal decisionmakers have several options.

  • Used needle among debris on the ground, photo by sanjeri/Getty Images

    Journal Article

    How the Opioid Crisis Is Driving the Rise in Hepatitis C

    Mar 13, 2019

    Reformulating OxyContin to reduce its abuse led directly to increased hepatitis C infections as drug abusers switched from the prescription medication to injectable heroin.

  • Journal Article

    Post-Overdose Prescribing in West Virginia

    Mar 12, 2019

    Fewer than 10% of West Virginia Medicaid enrollees received medication for opioid use disorder after a non-fatal overdose.

Browse RAND Research on Opioids