January 01, 2018

Opioid Use Disorder: A Look Backward and a Path Forward

By Sarah E. Wakeman

Americans under age 50 are more likely to die from a drug overdose than from any other cause. The number of overdose deaths annually has now surpassed deaths due to car accidents, guns, or HIV. This public health crisis has been termed the “opioid epidemic” because the majority of these deaths are due to heroin, fentanyl, or prescription pain relievers. Some are now calling it a poisoning crisis as the drug supply is increasingly tainted with deadly synthetic fentanyl analogues. While an overdose can happen with any drug use, these deaths often occur in individuals with opioid use disorder, which we commonly refer to as addiction. This makes the tremendous loss of life all the more tragic; opioid addiction is a highly treatable illness, and nonfatal opioid overdose is a reversible condition.

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