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New policies to reduce opioid prescribing not likely to have caused increase in heroin use

Science Spotlight

January 13, 2016

Wilson Quote from Spotlight

A new scientific review suggests that federal and state policies aimed at curbing inappropriate prescribing of opioids have not directly led to the recent increases in heroin use across the nation. Researchers conducting an analysis of the relationship between prescription opioid and heroin abuse found that the transition to heroin use occurred before many policies, including public education efforts, prescription drug monitoring programs, increased enforcement and regulatory actions, and abuse-deterrent formulations, were enacted.

People who use prescription opioids non-medically (e.g., use them without a prescription) rarely use heroin, and the transition to heroin use appears to occur at a low rate. Alternatively, the researchers suggest that the increased accessibility, lower market price and high purity of heroin appear to be major drivers of the recent heroin use increases and related deaths. The authors emphasize the need for improved approaches to treat opioid addiction, including medication-assisted treatments, continuing prevention and education efforts, as well as expanded access to naloxone to prevent overdose.

For a copy of the article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and authored by Dr. Wilson M. Compton, M.D., deputy director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and scientists from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, go to http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1508490.

To learn more about heroin, go to: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/heroin. To learn more about prescription drugs, go to: https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/prescription-drugs-cold-medicines.

For more information, contact the NIDA press office at media@nida.nih.gov or 301-443-6245.

NIDA Press Office

About the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA): The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a component of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIDA supports most of the world’s research on the health aspects of drug use and addiction. The Institute carries out a large variety of programs to inform policy, improve practice, and advance addiction science. Fact sheets on the health effects of drugs and information on NIDA research and other activities can be found at www.drugabuse.gov, which is now compatible with your smartphone, iPad or tablet. To order publications in English or Spanish, call NIDA’s DrugPubs research dissemination center at 1-877-NIDA-NIH or 240-645-0228 (TDD) or email requests to drugpubs@nida.nih.gov. Online ordering is available at drugpubs.drugabuse.gov. NIDA’s media guide can be found at www.drugabuse.gov/publications/media-guide/dear-journalist, and its easy-to-read website can be found at www.easyread.drugabuse.gov. You can follow NIDA on Twitter and Facebook.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

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    NIDA. (2016, January 13). New policies to reduce opioid prescribing not likely to have caused increase in heroin use. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2016/01/new-policies-to-reduce-opioid-prescribing-not-likely-to-have-caused-increase-in-heroin-use

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