Mapping an epidemic, pinpointing successful intervention methods

Prescription opioids, such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, and codeine, play a critical role in helping millions of people effectively manage acute and chronic pain. But for some, opioids have become a complex, tangled cycle of misuse that has led to devastating costs both to human life and society at large.

The epidemic’s spectrum spans from babies born with opioid-related complications to patients with chronic pain to military veterans treating wounds. In the United States, an estimated 2 million people suffer from prescription opioid-related substance abuse.

Through data analysis, observational studies, and economic modeling, we know developing and deploying effective interventions, like naloxone distribution, prescription drug monitoring programs, and supervised injection facilities are critical to ending the increasing misuse of opioids.

As part of the Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention of States Program, we work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to understand how prescription drug monitoring programs are preventing opioid misuse and accidental overdoses. We are also working to better implement naloxone interventions by determining the feasibility of making naloxone available over-the-counter. And, on the frontier of harm-reducing interventions, we found that a single supervised injection facility in San Francisco yields improved public health and $3.4 million in annual savings to the city.

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