The Physician’s Role in the Opioid Crisis

The Physician’s Role in the Opioid Crisis


Provisional estimates suggest that nearly 65,000 Americans died from an overdose of drugs in 2016 – a 21% increase from the previous year; that represents a nearly eight-fold increase in the past 37 years.

Although the underground illegal market for opioids is active, about half of opioid overdose deaths are related to medications obtained legally by prescription. It is, in part, a problem driven by supply, as the rapid increase in deaths involving both prescription and illicit opioids has mirrored the increase in opioid marketing and availability.

For the nation’s clinicians, the burdens are heavy and multifaceted, contending as they must deal with the immediate consequences of the crisis for their patients, their colleagues, and their own families, as well as with the reality that a share of the responsibility for the problem’s source lies with themselves.



Additional Reading

  • National Academy of Medicine (NAM). 2017. First do no harm: Marshaling clinician leadership to counter the opioid epidemic. Washington, DC: National Academy of Medicine