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
  • RAND physician policy researcher Tisamarie Sherry discusses the U.S. opioid crisis at a RAND event in Pittsburgh, April 10, 2019, photo by Michael Reed Photography

    Blog

    Apr 15, 2019

    A Holistic Approach to Solving the Opioid Crisis

    While federal, state and, local governments deploy strategies to tackle the opioid crisis, the problem continues to proliferate. RAND researchers suggest that these strategies fail to solve the larger problem because they've largely been developed in silos. The opioid crisis is an ecosystem, and mitigating the problem will require a holistic approach.

  • Commentary

    Tackle Fentanyl like a Poisoning Outbreak, Not a Drug Epidemic

    Sep 3, 2019

    America's fentanyl problem is far deadlier than past crises with other illegal drugs. New ideas, be they public policies, technologies or law enforcement strategies, are desperately needed. Continuing to treat fentanyl just like previous drug epidemics will likely be insufficient and may condemn thousands more to early deaths.

  • Report

    Synthetic Opioids: An Unprecedented Crisis

    Aug 29, 2019

    The rise of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids is unlike any drug crisis in U.S. history. Limiting policy responses to existing approaches will likely be insufficient and may condemn many people to early deaths.

  • Cocaine, cannabis leaf, and syringe, photos by Bits and Splits, underworld, and Leonid/Adobe Stock

    Report

    How Big Is the U.S. Market for Cannabis, Cocaine, Heroin, and Meth?

    Aug 20, 2019

    Americans spent about $150 billion on cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine in 2016. The cannabis market was roughly the size of the cocaine and meth markets combined.

  • Overdose rescue kits on a table during an Opioid Overdose Prevention Training class provided by Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, New York, April 5, 2018

    Report

    Synthetic Opioid Surge Is a U.S. Public Health Emergency

    Aug 13, 2019

    In less than six years, the number of fatal overdoses in the United States that involve synthetic opioids has increased tenfold. Where are synthetic opioids concentrated? And to what extent is the problem spreading?

Browse RAND Research on Opioids