Monday, August 27, 2018

Study says a much more comprehensive approach is needed to fight the epidemic of opioid overdose deaths

A study just published in the American Journal of Public Health says U.S. policies are not doing enough to curb the opioid epidemic, and predicts that 510,000 Americans will die from opioid-related causes over the next decade. Using mathematical models and expert opinions, the researchers assessed the likely impact of different policy initiatives on the epidemic. Though some policies will help more than others, the researchers say no single policy will end the epidemic on its own, so a much more comprehensive approach is needed.

“The model, for example, estimated that wider availability of naloxone could reduce opioid-related deaths by 21,200 over 10 years; that medication-based treatments for opioid addiction like buprenorphine and methadone would reduce deaths by 12,500; and that reductions in painkiller prescribing for acute pain would reduce deaths by 8,000,” German Lopez reports for Vox. “On the harm-reduction and treatment front, the model suggested that several interventions — more naloxone, more needle exchanges, more medication-based treatment, and more psychosocial treatment — would have unambiguously good effects, reducing both heroin and painkiller deaths over the next 10 years. But none of them would have giant effects on their own.”

Some interventions could trigger an increase in overdoses of other drugs even as they reduce painkiller deaths. When addicts lose access to prescription opioids, some begin using illegal opioids like heroin or fentanyl and may overdose on them, Lopez reports.

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