Solving the current prescription opioid abuse crisis will involve coordinated efforts from a wide variety of stakeholders, from frontline health care workers, to legislators, to family members of those diverting prescription drugs.

Currently the leading cause of injury-related mortality in the United States, deaths secondary to prescription opioid overdose have reached nearly 19,000 per year. That’s quadruple the number of deaths from 15 years ago. One problem plaguing physicians in this crisis is the uncertainty about the appropriate number of pills to prescribe.

Recent legislative efforts underscore the signifi-cance of this problem. As of March 2016, there are now more than 375 proposals in state legislatures designed to regulate several aspects of prescribing practices for opioid analgesics in attempts to decrease excess pills.

To date, there has been limited legislative success. Massachusetts passed a bill in March that restricts prescription opioids to a seven-day supply for acute pain. Federal...

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