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.
A new and free science-based curriculum designed to teach adolescents about the risks of opioids has been released by Project ALERT, a national evidence-based drug education program created and managed by RAND.
Opioid use increased dramatically in the last two decades, eclipsing the increase in patient pain. Nearly 30 percent of opioid prescriptions in the U.S. between 2006 and 2015 were written without an accompanying pain diagnosis.
A research center dedicated to identifying effective policies for combating the nation's opioid epidemic has been established at the RAND Corporation, supported by a $7.2 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a component of the National Institutes of Health.
Illicitly sourced synthetic opioids, such as fentanyl, are involved in most of today's overdose deaths. Though most of these substances appear to come from China, many dimensions of this problem are unclear. Understanding the shifting supply of opioids is critical to addressing the overdose crisis.