A new model suggests that US opioid crisis might soon peak, killing more than half a million people from 2020 to 2032 due to the flooding of the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.
A systems scientist at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and his colleagues collected federal data to understand national patterns of opioid use and overdose, which resulted in a large number of deaths between 1999 and 2020. They built a model that considers factors such as the number of opioid prescriptions, the price of heroin, the prevalence of fentanyl, and the distribution of naloxone to study how the opioid crisis has affected the population of the U.S. for the past 20 years.
The model heavily relies on the feedback that gives correct information and highlights factors that affected the overdose use, treatment, relapses, and deaths. The scientist informed that they are dealing with complicated factors, and as soon as one part of the system is addressed, other factors get affected. The researchers even projected that assuming various policy choices and other factors, overdose deaths are expected to peak before 2025.
543,000 people would die between 2020 and 2032 as per the “optimistic” scenario and 842,000 as per the “pessimistic” scenario. The researchers even determined that restricting the prescriptions would have little effect on the crisis as most of the deaths are caused due to illicit fentanyl. They even said that increased distribution of naloxone would make the optimistic scenario more visible in the future.
The scientist even determined that the feedback loops might be more complex than they appear, as his own research suggests that increased stress and trauma in a community might lead to greater opioid use.
The United States has reported fatal overdoses of around 760,000 people since 1999. Prescription drugs and illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl are to be blamed for such huge numbers of overdoses. Even though the injections of the drug naloxone quickly reverse overdoses and helps in combating the epidemic, the number of overdose deaths is significantly rising each year.