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.

  • A group of doctors around a table, having a discussion, photo by FatCamera/Getty Images

    Report

    Preventing Opioid-Related Disease Transmission

    Jun 18, 2019

    Rural communities often lack the resources to address social and medical issues related to the opioid epidemic. RAND researchers examined the challenges facing Community Health Centers in caring for people with opioid use disorder and reducing disease transmission.

  • Picture of a crowd of people holding and raising rainbow flags during an LGBT parade, photo by BalkansCat.

    Journal Article

    Sexual Minority Disparities in Opioid Misuse

    Jun 12, 2019

    Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults, particularly bisexual women, are at significantly higher risk than heterosexuals for prescription opioid misuse and heroin use. Disparities in rates of opioid misuse among LGB adults are concerning given elevated risks of overdose.

  • 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.

Browse RAND Research on Opioids