Even with COVID-19 dominating the news, the epidemic of opioid use remains a nationwide threat. While public awareness and efforts to stop addiction and overdoses have intensified, some communities reported higher rates of opioid-related deaths in 2020 than ever before. The extent and burden of opioid prescription drug use has gone largely uninvestigated as most studies have focused on curtailing illegal use.

Recent research led by USC School of Pharmacy faculty member Dima M. Qato aims to fill that knowledge gap. The findings — published in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety — revealed that, although high risk prescription opioid use has declined, nearly 1 in 10 adults were taking opioids that puts them at increased risk from an opioid overdose in 2016.

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