Is opioid-induced hyperalgesia the hidden cause of the opioid epidemic?

The opioid epidemic in the United States has been making front-page news for a while. It consists of a dramatic increase in deaths caused by opioid overdoses starting in 2011. In 2015, annual deaths by opioid overdoses surpassed deaths from guns and traffic accidents. Drug overdose is now the main cause of deaths of Americans under 50. The number of deaths caused by opioids keeps increasing steadily, from 4,000 in 1999 to 16,000 in 2010 to 62,000 in 2016. Contrary to the usual racial stereotypes about drug abuse, the opioid epidemic affects all segments of the population without much difference according to race and gender. If anything, it seems to affect more working-class whites, particularly those living in rural areas. Interestingly, a study across the 50 states found that the opioid epidemic was significantly lower in states that had legalized marijuana.


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UCLA professor. Neuroscientist doing research on pain. Writes about science, philosophy, politics and kinky sex.

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