And according to the model’s projections, over five hundred thousand more lives will be claimed by the opioid epidemic over the next decade.
This staggering number is no longer due to people misusing prescription opioids or even heroin– which have both been declining. Instead, the massive death toll will be due to fentanyl overdoses.
SOURCE did not just predict the epidemic’s future, though. It has also allowed researchers to come up with eleven different prevention strategies– three of which have the potential to save over one hundred thousand lives.
In order to be effective, though, the three plans of action must be implemented together. They include fentanyl harm reduction, naloxone (Narcan) distribution, and increased support for people recovering from opioid use disorder (OUD).
This demographic is the most at risk of overdosing due to the potential to relapse.
Dr. Jalali believes that looking at the opioid epidemic from this macro standpoint is the only way to combat it successfully.
“This broader perspective is critical to making progress. It is like playing whack-a-mole. If you don’t look at the whole system and its interconnected parts, then fixing one aspect of the problem can make other aspects worse,” Dr. Jalil said.
But, SOURCE’s findings will have to be acted upon soon before it is too late.
“If we wait for this crisis to peak, it will be too late. We need to use these strategies together, and now, in order for them to have maximum impact,” said Erin Stringfellow, a co-author of the study and Harvard Medical School research fellow.
To learn more about SOURCE and read the study’s complete findings published in Science Advances, you can visit the link here.
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