Opioid Epidemic and Health Care Policy

Ellen Meara , Dartmouth College

In 2017, 72,000 Americans died of drug overdose, a four-fold increase since 1999. 3/4 of the growth stems from opioids, including prescription opioids, heroin, and illegal fentanyl. During the proliferation in state laws from 2006-2012, restrictions on prescribing and dispensing of opioids had little impact, but more recent evidence suggests that total opioid prescribing has tapered off, in part related to regulations mandating prescribers to check electronic prescription monitoring databases. The apparent success of recent restrictions conflicts with the rapid rise in overdose deaths, much of which stems from illicit opioid use. This presentation will reconcile evidence suggesting that opioid prescribing regulations are effective at reducing potentially hazardous opioid prescription receipt and evidence that opioid overdose rates continue to rise rapidly. I suggest that although selected aspects of opioid receipt change as restrictions rise, the most risky aspects of prescription opioid use, and therefore consequences for the user, remain unchanged.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 50. Rising U.S. Mortality: How Much Should We Despair?