National Leadership Needed to Fight the Opioid Crisis

September 2017
Diana H. Fishbein, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University

Michael Vanyukov, Ph.D.
University of Pittsburgh

Glenn Sterner, Ph.D.
The Pennsylvania State University

The U.S. is now in the midst of an unprecedented rise in opioid drug overdoses from both illegitimately used pain relievers and heroin (SAMHSA: The Opioid Epidemic), with a 200% increase in opioid-related deaths since the year 2000 (Rudd et al., 2015; Death rate from opioids and heroin rage out of control). The opioid crisis claims over 91 Americans per day
from overdoses, more than die of car crashes, gun violence, or murders.

Although the rate of opioid addiction has risen recently at an alarming rate, many misconceptions have compromised our ability to respond effectively. Most prominent is the misimpression that legitimate opioid use for pain invariably places patients on a fast track to addiction with many turning to illicit prescriptions and, in many cases, heroin. In fact, only a very small portion of those who become dependent on legitimately-prescribed opioids become addicted and even fewer turn to illicit opioids like heroin, suggesting that some individuals are more vulnerable to addiction than others. To exert a measurable impact on this crisis, it is thus necessary that we consider the underlying reasons for these differences in determining how we should we direct our precious resources.

This White Paper outlines a perspective from prevention science, which has amassed considerable knowledge about the factors that contribute to addiction, and provides policy recommendations (see below) that stem from that knowledge. The full text can be found here

  1. Disinvest in Incarceration for Drug Addicts: Focus Enforcement on Large-Scale Trafficking Networks

  2. Invest in Prevention

  3. Focus on Long Term Treatment

  4. Support a New Model for the Role of Law Enforcement

  5. Incentivize Further Research

  6. Assist with Collaborative Data Sharing

  7. Address the Stigma of Opioid Addiction

  8. Make Naloxone Available Over the Counter

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