Opioid Crisis

October 7, 2016 • Volume 26, Issue 35
Can recent reforms curb the epidemic?
By Peter Katel

Introduction

Family members hold photos of opioid victims (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
Family members hold photos of opioid victims during a Capitol Hill news conference on May 19 in support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Signed by President Obama in July, the bipartisan law encourages the expansion of treatment programs and development of alternatives to opioid painkillers. (Getty Images/Alex Wong)

Overdoses of opioid drugs, including powerful prescription painkillers and heroin, have killed almost 250,000 Americans since 2000, leading many experts to compare the crisis to the HIV and AIDS epidemics. Opioid addiction, once largely an urban minority affliction, has spread to every corner of the United States, hitting young adults and white people especially hard. One study has found that more adults use prescription painkillers than cigarettes, smokeless tobacco and cigars combined. As opioid abuse grows, propelled in part by a flood of cheap heroin from Mexico, alarmed authorities are trying to figure out how to fight back. In July, President Obama signed a bill encouraging the expansion of treatment programs and the development of alternatives to opioid painkillers. But many experts are divided over how best to help opioid addicts. Some advocate providing them with limited doses to control their addiction, while others say that such an approach would make the crisis worse.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Drug Abuse and Trafficking
Jun. 29, 2017  Drug Abuse
Oct. 07, 2016  Opioid Crisis
Jul. 19, 2016  Drug Abuse
May 02, 2014  Treating Addiction
Jun. 03, 2011  Teen Drug Use
Jun. 12, 2009  Legalizing Marijuana Updated
Dec. 12, 2008  Mexico's Drug War
Feb. 09, 2007  Combating Addiction
Jun. 02, 2006  War on Drugs
Jul. 15, 2005  Methamphetamine
Jul. 28, 2000  Drug-Policy Debate
Nov. 20, 1998  Drug Testing
Jan. 06, 1995  Treating Addiction
Mar. 19, 1993  War on Drugs
Feb. 23, 1990  Does the War on Drugs Need a New Strategy?
May 20, 1988  The Business of Illicit Drugs
Jan. 23, 1987  Experimental Drugs
Feb. 08, 1985  The Fight Against Drug Smuggling
Aug. 27, 1982  Cocaine: Drug of the Eighties
Jun. 11, 1982  Prescription-Drug Abuse
Jan. 23, 1976  Changing U.S. Drug Policy
Dec. 13, 1972  World Drug Traffic
May 27, 1970  Heroin Addiction
Jan. 27, 1965  Psychotoxic Drugs
Jul. 18, 1962  Narcotics Addiction: Punishment or Treatment
Sep. 05, 1956  Control of Drug Addiction
Mar. 28, 1951  Drug Addiction
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Crime and Law Enforcement
Drug Abuse
Pharmaceuticals
Substance Abuse