The Opioid Crisis
- M. Aryana Bryan, M. Aryana BryanThe University of Utah
- Valerie Hruschak, Valerie HruschakUniversity of Pittsburgh
- Cory Dennis, Cory DennisBrigham Young University
- Daniel RosenDaniel RosenUniversity of Pittsburgh
- and Gerald CochranGerald CochranUniversity of Utah Health
Opioid-related deaths by overdoses quadrupled in the United States from the years 1999 to 2015. This rise in mortality predominately occurred in the wake of historic changes in pain management practices and aggressive marketing of opioid medications such as oxycontin. Prescription opioid misuse and subsequent addiction spilled over to heroin and fentanyl for many. This drug epidemic differed from others in its impact among non-Hispanic whites, leading to drastic changes in how the United States views addiction and chooses to respond. This article offers an overview of opioid use disorder (OUD), its treatment and its relationship with pain. It also discusses special populations affected and provides insight into future directions for research and social work practice surrounding opioid management in the United States. Because of the profession’s emphasis on the person and social environment as well as its focus on vulnerable and oppressed populations, social work plays a critical role in addressing the crisis.