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.

  • Bags of fentanyl at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection area at the International Mail Facility at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, November 29, 2017, photo by Joshua Lott/Reuters

    Commentary

    China's Ban on Fentanyl Drugs Won't Likely Stem America's Opioid Crisis

    May 22, 2019

    Given China's recent decision to ban the unauthorized manufacture of fentanyl, authorities there appear to recognize a growing problem. But China cannot solve the U.S. opioid problem. The United States could do more to reduce demand for opioids as well as drug users' exposure to these powerful drugs.

  • The drug Naloxone on a table during a free Opioid Overdose Prevention Training class provided by Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton, New York, April 5, 2018

    News Release

    Allowing Pharmacists to Directly Dispense Opioid Antidote Can Sharply Cut Opioid Overdose Deaths

    May 6, 2019

    Allowing pharmacists to dispense the opioid antidote naloxone without a physician's prescription can sharply reduce the incidence of fatal opioid-related overdoses. States that adopted such laws saw fatal opioid overdoses fall by an average of 27 percent during the second year following passage and 34 percent in subsequent years.

  • Used Narcan (naloxone hydrochloride) containers and syringes sit in a case, after paramedics revived a man in his 40s, who was found unresponsive, after overdosing on opioids in Salem, Massachusetts, August 9, 2017, photo by Brian Snyder/Reuters

    Commentary

    (Grey's) Anatomy of an Opioid Crisis

    Apr 8, 2019

    More than 130 Americans die every day after overdosing on opioids. So when one of the most popular shows on TV made opioid misuse a major plotline, RAND experts paid attention to how it presented this public health crisis. The show mirrored reality pretty closely, for the narrow slice of the opioid crisis it addressed.

  • West Virginia flag waving in the wind, photo by bkindler/Getty Images

    Journal Article

    The Affordable Care Act in the Heart of the Opioid Crisis: Evidence from West Virginia

    Apr 4, 2019

    The growing use of medication treatment for opioid use disorder in the West Virginia Medicaid expansion population provides an opportunity to reduce overdose deaths.

Browse RAND Research on Opioids