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Making opioids harder to abuse led to a spike in heroin overdoses

A 2010 effort to deter opioid abuse led to a surge in heroin overdoses, according to a new working paper in NBER. The painkiller OxyContin was reformulated in 2010, and while it became harder to abuse, "each prevented opioid death was replaced with a heroin death," the paper says.

Adapted from Evans et. al., 2018,  "How the Reformation of OxyContin Ignited the Heroin Epidemic", The National Bureau of Economic Research; Note: "Opioids" includes all opioid related deaths aside from those that are exclusively attributed to heroin; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: This underlines yet another reason why the opioid epidemic is so difficult to address. Even common-sense solutions may have unintended consequences.