A new study that has been released by the American Action Forum suggests that toughening regulation for prescription opioids in 2010 may have led to higher rates of opioid prescription overdose.
According to the study, which was released earlier this month, more strict regulation of opioid prescription did decrease the number of people who overdosed on prescription opioids. However, the research suggests that although the number of people who experienced an opioid overdose as a result of prescription opioid medications may have been decreased by the increased regulation, it may have caused an increase in the number of people who experienced an opioid overdose as a result of illicit opioids.
The results of the study suggest that this outcome is a result of people who would otherwise be taking prescription opioids, but were forced to turn elsewhere as a consequence of increased prescription regulation. As a result, people who were unable to obtain their opioid medication through legitimate channels may have turned to the extremely potent fentanyl or another illegally obtained opioid, such as heroin, in order to self-medicate. This led to an increase in the number of overdoses caused by illicit opioids.
According to the information contained in the report, for each year prior to 2010, heroin overdoses increased by 4.1%. However, after 2010, when the increased regulations for prescription opioids were issued, the rate of heroin overdoses in the United States increased dramatically, increasing 31.2%. The rate of overdoses caused by synthetic opioids underwent a similar increase.
The report reveals how important it is to ensure that any strategy to combat the ongoing opioid crisis considers every facet of the issue. While preventing people from overexposure to prescription opioids may be part of the solution, ensuring those who are not given prescription opioids have access to addiction recovery treatment is essential to successfully combating the opioid crisis.