Jacob James Rich, PhD student in epidemiology and biostatistics, was awarded the “Best Student Abstract Award” at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting in November. The research, conducted with coauthor and Yale University law student Robert Capodilupo, was recently published by the Yale Law & Policy Review Inter Alia.
The researchers’ work investigates the consequences of public health interventions. They investigated the consequences of policy interventions in opioid prescribing, such as prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). Although these interventions reduced opioid prescribing and deaths related to prescription opioids, total drug overdoses actually increased, due to a larger increase in overdoses from heroin and illicit fentanyl that resulted from pain patients and recreational users seeking opioids on the black market.
After reviewing addiction data from the 1990s to the present, Rich and Capodilupo discovered, contrary to popular belief, that the nonmedical use of prescription opioids has been overly stable for decades. Consequently, they determined targeting addiction that arises from medical exposure to opioids is actually misguided—overdose deaths are not really affected by the number of drug users, but by what drugs are used.
The paper offered prevalence estimates for nonmedical opioid use, with a law analysis.