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Heller in the News
March 01, 2018
One of the first doctors to recognize what has become the deadliest drug epidemic in American history, Opioid Policy Research Collaborative co-director Andrew Kolodny is now arguably the country’s most outspoken expert on a crisis that continues to grow. Opioids — including prescription drugs, heroin and the synthetic drug fentanyl — claimed more than 49,000 lives in 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up from 28,647 in 2014.
Over the past decade, Kolodny has broken ranks with many physicians by insisting the epidemic is not one of drug abuse but of addiction, borne of the overprescription of extremely addictive painkillers to patients suffering from back and nerve problems, and other kinds of chronic pain. His stance has put him at odds with pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids (as well as some pain-patient advocacy groups that receive funding from them), which claim problems with opioids are limited to people who abuse them.
But as the sheer magnitude of the opioid crisis swamps the nation’s medical system, and devastates families and communities alike, Kolodny’s warnings are finally being heeded.