Lessons from Norway
Professor Thomas Clausen has written a commentary in the journal Addiction on overdose prevention in light of the American opioid crisis.
The United States is in the grip of an ongoing and escalating opioid crisis, in which the need for treatment is not being met by appropriate resources or interventions to counter the problem. Thus, in the United States today a majority of those addicted to opioids may have no other recourse than to use illegal opioids.
For many years Norway has also had a high number of fatal overdoses caused by opioids, though fortunately not to the same extent as in the USA. Since 2014, we have enacted a national overdose strategy, including several measures to reduce the number of overdoses. The number of heroin overdoses has been steadily declining from a peak in 2000. In the past 10 years, however, overdose deaths associated with strong painkillers have become increasingly dominant.
The future of Norway's overdose prevention strategy must therefore continue both to focus on further reduction of deaths related to illegal drugs, but also to increase measures that can reduce deaths related to painkillers, including changes in prescribing practices, systematic monitoring, and greater access to high quality treatment.