The number of opioid-related deaths — from both prescription opioids and illegal drugs including heroin, fentanyl, and carfentanil — has quadrupled in the last 20 years. At present, the opioid epidemic claims 130 lives every day in the United States.
In response to the epidemic, the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) is among more than 100 organizations across the country that have joined the National Academy of Medicine (NAM) in declaring their commitment to reversing national trends in opioid misuse and overdose.
The initiative announcement was made at a meeting of the NAM’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic. Barbara Wolfe, UW–Madison Richard A. Easterlin Professor of Economics, Public Affairs, and Population Health Sciences, represented IRP at the meeting.
“Addiction and overdose not only destroy individual lives but also erode the health and prosperity of families and communities,” said Wolfe. “The economic toll is significant; according to the nonprofit research organization Altarum, the cost of the opioid crisis is estimated to have exceeded $1 trillion from 2001 to 2017, and it is projected to cost an additional $500 billion by 2020.”
National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau said, “The opioid epidemic is one of the most devastating public health crises of the modern era, impacting individuals, families, and communities across the nation. The complexity of this crisis requires sustained commitment from all stakeholders: health systems, federal and state governments, community organizations, provider groups, payers, industry, nonprofits, and academia.”
IRP Director Lawrence Berger added, “The Institute for Research on Poverty is joining this nationwide effort to counter the opioid epidemic because, although the epidemic affects people of all levels of socioeconomic status, those with limited resources are the least able to counter its devastating effects. IRP’s poverty research to inform policy in this area plays a critical role in countering the epidemic.”
To provide an opportunity for organizations to discuss and share plans of action, the NAM recently called for and has collected statements describing current work and future goals to counter the opioid epidemic in the areas of health professional education and training; opioid prescribing guidelines and evidence standards; prevention, treatment, and recovery; and research, data, and metrics. The call remains open.
By making a visible commitment to combating the opioid crisis, these groups join the action collaborative as network organizations. The full list of organizations is online.
Founded in 2018 in collaboration with the Aspen Institute, the Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic is a public-private partnership committed to developing, curating, and disseminating multi-sector solutions designed to reduce opioid misuse and improve outcomes for individuals, families, and communities affected by the opioid crisis.