The Shape of a Crisis

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic in the United States

How many people are prescriped opioids?

In 2016, health care providers across the US wrote more than 214 million prescriptions for opioid pain medication.

How many people are dependent?

As many as 1 in 5 people recieve precriptions opioids long term for noncancer pain

How do prescription opioids factor into opioid related deaths?

More than 40% of all US opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involve a prescription opioid

How many people abuse prescribed opioids?

11 Million People abused prescription opioids

What is it like on a daily basis?

Every day, more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments for misusing prescription opioids

What's the cost?

The CDC estimates the total economic burden of prescription opioid misuse in the US is $78.5 billion a year, including the costs of health care, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement.

Timeline of Opioid overdose

Since 1999, the Unites States has seen a dramatic increase in opioid-related deaths. We expect to see a continued increase with if immediate action is not taken.

Opioid overdose deaths by age

Based on the data, the opioid crisis affects the middle age demographics the most. Many believe that young adults are most at risk, but the data shows otherwise.

The Demographics of The Opioid Epidemic

According to the CDC, the New England area has a significantly higher concentration of opioid misuse and death. The opioid-related death rates in all the New England states are above the national average, five of which have rates double the national average.

Attacking the Problem

According to a panel of 30 experts – whose professional background ranged from medicine to law, government to social work – no one singular approach will tackle the opioid epidemic. It will mandate a combination of methods that integrate reducing harm, tapering demand, increasing education, and bolstering treatments. While the exact permutations of the the four categories, as well as the specific sub categorical approaches, differed amongst the panelists, the treatment category remained an emphasized method across the board. Medication-Assisted treatment and Medicaid, specially, were two treatment methods highly cited by the group. On average, treatment accounted for 46% of a total budget each expert would allocate. Advocates for the medication-assisted approach, who on average would allocate 18% of a hypothetical solution total budget, call for bolstered access to medications such as methadone and buprenorphine, which are substantially evidenced to treat addiction and cut mortality rates over 50%. The other, Medicaid at 11% allocation, already stands as a reliable source to fund treatment, notably for at-risk populations who do not have insurance. As such, implementing this approach covers the disproportionate amount of low-income communicate who are otherwise often left behind in more expensive methods of solution. Some experts chose to focus on prevention efforts in general. A more popular approach featured a 13% average allocation to community development, which would bolster social structure such as child support and job preparation, to help steer communities in direction of more care that would ideally lead to a prevented system where treatment is not even, or at least less, necessary. While addressing demand and harm reduction were not as significant portions of recommended budgets, almost every expert included some permutation of these fields into their recommended solution breakdown. As such, it is clear the approach to solving the crisis but inherit a multifaceted one.