Over the next few years, opioid misuse and overdose deaths are projected to substantially increase despite current efforts to prevent abuse, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open.
“Deaths due to opioid overdose have tripled in the last decade,” Qiushi Chen, PhD, from Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues wrote. “Efforts to curb this trend have focused on restricting the prescription opioid supply; however, the near-term effects of such efforts are unknown.”
Chen and colleagues conducted a system dynamics model study to estimate the effectiveness of interventions in lowering abuse of prescription opioids between 2016 and 2025. The researchers developed the model, known as the Opioid Policy Model, using 2002 to 2015 data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the CDC. The model reproduced trends in opioid misuse and opioid overdose deaths up to 2015, then stimulated opioid outcomes from 2016 to 2025.
The model projected that the annual number of opioid overdose deaths will increase 147% from 2015 to 2025 (33,100 vs. 81,700; 95% uncertainty interval [UI], 63,600-101,700). Approximately 700,400 (95% UI, 590,200-817,100) Americans are expected to die from an opioid overdose from 2016 to 2025. Of these deaths, most (80%) are projected to be caused by illicit opioids.
Over the next few years, opioid misuse and overdose deaths are projected to substantially increase despite current efforts to prevent abuse.
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The researchers estimated that there will be a 61% increase in the number of individuals using illicit opioids from 2015 to 2025 (0.93 million; 95% UI, 0.83-1.03 million vs. 1.5 million; 95% UI, 0.98-2.22 million).
The interventions studied are expected to lower prescription opioid misuse and overdose deaths by only 3% to 5.3% by 2025.
“We found that under current conditions the opioid overdose crisis is likely to substantially worsen and that interventions such as prescription drug monitoring programs are unlikely to lead to major decreases in the number of deaths from opioid overdose in the near future,” Chen and colleagues concluded. “Given these findings, policymakers will need to take a stronger and multipronged approach, such as improving access to treatment, expanding harm-reduction interventions, and lowering exposure to illicit opioids, to curb the trajectory of the opioid overdose epidemic in the United States.” – by Alaina Tedesco
Disclosures: Chen reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.