The U.S. Opioid Epidemic

One Disease, Diverging Tales

Published in: Preventive Medicine, Volume 112 (July 2018), Pages 176-178. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2018.04.023

Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2018

by Ryan K. McBain, Adam J. Rose, Marc R. LaRochelle

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The U.S. opioid epidemic is arguably the most pressing health crisis today: In 2015 alone, there were 35,000 opioid overdose deaths—one death every 16 minutes. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death among those under age 50, and the epidemic has reversed trends in U.S. life expectancy gains for the first time in years. While the statistics associated with the opioid epidemic are uniformly concerning, the stories told about the underlying causes—and associated corrective mechanisms—are disparate.

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