Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50 and has lowered the average life expectancy in the United States.1 Over the next decade as many as half-a-million people in the United States will die from opioid substances that include heroin, pain-killers such as morphine and oxycodone, and synthetic agents such as fentanyl.2
Public policy to date has failed to counter this epidemic. Standing in the way of effective response are three mistaken approaches to the problem:
- Misinterpreting correlation as causation.
- Misunderstanding the physiology of addiction.
- Overlooking the social psychology of addiction.
Mistake #1: Misinterpreting Correlation as Causation
Does epidemic opioid overuse result from too many prescriptions of medication for pain relief? In March of 2018 President Trump announced that his administration is “taking action to prevent addiction by addressing the problem of overprescribing…. We’re going to cut nationwide opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years.”3 The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also attribute the overuse of opioids and other addictive substances to prescription practices:
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