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
  • Bags of fentanyl and heroin that were seized by authorities, photo by United States DEA

    Commentary

    Sep 3, 2019

    Tackle Fentanyl like a Poisoning Outbreak, Not a Drug Epidemic

    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.

Browse RAND Research on Opioids