ISSUE ADVISORY - What Should We Do about the Opioid Epidemic?

Drug abuse, a problem the United States has faced for decades, has taken a sharp and lethal turn with the rise of opioids—both legal pain- killers, such as oxycodone and fentanyl, and illegal ones like heroin.

This issue advisory presents three options for deliberation on this topic, along with their drawbacks. Each option offers advantages as well as risks. If we increase enforcement, for example, this may result in many more people in prison. If we reduce the number of prescriptions written, we may increase suffering among people with painful illnesses.

Option 1: Focus on Treatment for All

This option says that, given the rising number of deaths from opioids, we are not devoting enough resources to treatment to make real headway in turning around the epidemic.

Option 2: Focus on Enforcement

This option says that our highest priority must be keeping our communities safe and preventing people from becoming addicted in the  first place. 

Option 3: Focus on Individual Choice

This option recognizes that society cannot force treatment on people.