In 2015, nearly 30,000 people died from opioid abuse in the US—just a few thousand short of matching the number of deaths caused by car accidents over the course of the same year. Some 2.1 million Americans are currently dependent on prescription opioids, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s latest estimates, and an additional 467,000 are addicted to heroin.
It’s not entirely clear what to do about what many have called America’s “opioid epidemic.” Several states have tightened regulations on prescribers and added new treatment programs for those struggling with addiction. Others have expanded access to naloxone, the antidote for opioid overdose, which is now sold over-the-counter at pharmacies in more than a dozen states. Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services also increased the amount of buprenorphine, an addiction medication, that doctors can legally prescribe. And in the private sector, companies like Massachusetts-based Imprivata are looking to plug the pipeline.