The opioid epidemic is a highly complex problem, and it turns out, even more difficult to curb than anticipated. Some policies aimed at stemming the harm can paradoxically lead to more deaths before improving outcomes.

We already know that the majority of heroin users (up to 80%) began with prescription opioids.

Policies limiting opioid prescriptions could therefore drive current prescription opioid users to more dangerous opioids like heroin and fentanyl, since they would no longer have access to the prescription drugs. In fact, researchers from Stanford found that in 5-10 years, these policies would result in more deaths.

After this time, the benefits of these policies become more effective by reducing the number of new prescription opioid users, which would in turn limit the number of individuals transitioning to the illicit and more deadly opioids. These policies have the added benefit of removing excess pills from circulation when a patient has leftovers.

Implications for employers in the context of other substance misuse will be released shortly by IBI. The report will include strategies employers can use to minimize the risk to their employees.


Posted by Erin Peterson