Prescription opioid abuse: Problems and responses

Prev Med. 2015 Nov;80:5-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2015.04.003. Epub 2015 Apr 11.


Prescription opioid abuse and addiction, along with consequences such as overdose death and increasing transition to heroin use, constitute a devastating public health problem in the United States. Increasingly it is clear that overprescription of these medications over the past two decades has been a major upstream driver of the opioid abuse epidemic. This commentary considers the factors that have led to overprescription of opioids by clinicians, discusses recent evidence casting doubt on the efficacy of opioids for treating chronic pain, and describes the ongoing efforts by federal and community stakeholders to address this epidemic-for example, supporting prescription drug monitoring programs and improved clinician training in pain management to help reduce the supply of opioids, increasing dissemination of evidence-based primary prevention programs to reduce demand for opioids, and expanding access to effective opioid agonist therapies and antagonist medications for both treatment and overdose prevention.

Keywords: Addiction; Overdose; Prescription opioid abuse.

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Pain / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose / mortality
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Prescription Drug Misuse / prevention & control*
  • Primary Prevention
  • Public Health
  • United States / epidemiology