“According to researchers at Brandeis University, the University of North Florida and Johns Hopkins University, policymakers must look beyond painkiller abuse, also called non-medical use, in their efforts to reduce opioid overdose deaths. In a comprehensive investigation, the scientists show that since 2002, new cases of non-medical abuse have declined, yet painkiller overdose deaths have soared; evidence, they say, that recreational use of painkillers is not a key driver of the opioid crisis. The authors suggest that policymakers should instead focus on preventing new cases of opioid addiction caused by both medical and non-medical use and expanding access to opioid addiction treatment.
Published in the Annual Review of Public Health, The Prescription Opioid and Heroin Crisis: A Public Health Approach to an Epidemic of Addiction reframes the heroin and prescription drug abuse problem as a wave of opioid addiction caused by overprescribing of painkillers by doctors. The paper points to the increased prevalence of opioid addiction as the explanation for high rates of overdose deaths and for the influx of heroin in non-urban communities. Since 1997, the number of Americans seeking treatment for addiction to painkillers increased by 900%. The prevalence of opioid addiction started rising as long-term prescribing of opioids for chronic pain, a practice encouraged by opioid manufacturers, became more common.
The researchers suggest that some of the same public health strategies used for controlling disease outbreaks can be effective for bringing the opioid crisis under control. “We need to prevent new cases of opioid addiction and we need to expand access to treatment for the millions of Americans who are already addicted,” says the study’s lead author, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. “Without better access to addiction treatment, overdose deaths will remain high and heroin will keep flooding in.”
The full text of the study is currently available at http://bit.ly/opioidcrisis.
Source: Brandeis University – February 4, 2015