A dramatic increase in opioid use has led to drug-related overdose deaths surpassing motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of mortality among adults under 50 in the U.S. In the most recent estimates, 63,632 people died from drug-related causes in just one year (2016). Dubbed an opioid epidemic by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), this public health crisis has spurred a wide array of efforts to increase access to addiction treatment services, reduce trafficking of high-potency synthetic opioid drugs, and reduce overprescribing of prescription drugs.
However, an underappreciated concern is the intersection between opioid use and infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C (HCV), infections that are efficiently transmitted via shared syringes or other injection equipment. A coherent legislative strategy is urgently needed to holistically and effectively address this trifecta of public health threats.