Drug Policy Research Center Hot Topic: Heroin and Other Opioids

The RAND Drug Policy Research Center is a non-partisan research center dedicated to providing objective analysis and research to decisionmakers. We do not have an official policy position on opioid use and more generally RAND does not advocate for or against legislation at any level of government.

For almost 30 years, RAND researchers have published articles and studies that will be useful for those making decisions about policies related to opioids. Here we summarize some of these studies and provide links to the publications (some journal articles may require subscription). This is not an exhaustive list of RAND's opioid-related publications and we encourage readers to visit the DPRC homepage for more information.

Featured Research

  • Close up of a newborn leg viewed through an incubator, photo by Kwangmoozaa/Getty Images

    Mar 14, 2019

    The Ecology of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

    Newborns exposed to opioids before birth can experience withdrawal symptoms known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). From 2009 to 2015, the average NAS rate per 1,000 hospital births across eight states rose from about six to more than 25.

Commentary

  • 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

    (Grey's) Anatomy of an Opioid Crisis

    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.

  • 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

    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 supervised injection site for people who use drugs, in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 28, 2018, photo by Denis Balibouse/Reuters

    Addressing Federal Conflicts Over Supervised Drug Consumption Sites

    With drug overdose deaths mounting, some American cities are trying to create designated spaces where people who use heroin and other drugs can have their consumption supervised by medical professionals. The Department of Justice argues these sites would violate federal law, but federal decisionmakers have several options.

  • Doctor and patient discussing medication

    In Opioid Policy, One Size Does Not Fit All

    To solve America's opioid crisis, policymakers will need to view the epidemic as an “ecosystem,” where policies that target only one part of the problem can have unintended consequences.

  • Man taking pills out of a medicine cabinet

    Conversations at RAND: A Sobering Look at the Opioid Epidemic

    Opioid overdoses were the greatest cause of accidental death in America in 2014. A panel discussion at RAND addressed the epidemic, including societal attitudes toward pain and addiction, poor understanding of the mechanics of addiction itself, economic drivers, legal responses, and treatment approaches.

  • Buprenorphine, a physician-prescribed tablet, is used to treat opioid addiction

    Opioid Rising: How to Stop the World's Growing Heroin Crisis

    Sixty-seven people will die today in America because of heroin or narcotic painkillers, if recent overdose statistics are any guide. RAND research offers strategies to save those lives and thousands more around the world.

Multimedia

  • A person wearing blue gloves conducts a forensic analysis of synthetic opioids.
    Opioids

    Multimedia

    Evolution of the U.S. Overdose Crisis

    Sep 6, 2018

    An overview of testimony by Bryce Pardo presented before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on September 6, 2018.

Research Categories:

Treatment and Prescribing

Use and Abuse

Policy, Law, and Regulation

Economics of Opioids and Supply

Prevention and Interventions

Harm Reduction