We asked 30 experts to think big, but realistically, about solutions. Imagine you had $100 billion to spend over five years — a little less than current federal domestic H.I.V./AIDS spending — to address the opioid crisis. Where would you put that money?
The consensus of the experts was that any effective strategy should include funding for four major areas: treatment, harm reduction, and both demand- and supply-focused solutions. The answer above is an average, as our panelists disagreed about the best way to divide up the money they were considering.
Our panel spent more money on treatment programs than anything else. (Over two million Americans are estimated to have a problem with opioids.) It was the top priority for more than 20 of the experts.
There was substantial disagreement about whether to focus on treating addiction or on trying to prevent the addiction from forming in the first place by addressing the underlying social issues that allow opioid addiction to thrive.
Our answers also suggest that the severity of the opioid crisis is breaking down longstanding divisions between public health officials and law enforcement, with over two-thirds of our panel including increased funding for law enforcement or international interdiction efforts. (Most of our panelists are public health and policy experts; others are politicians and law enforcement officials who have dealt with the crisis extensively.)
One point of agreement: No panelist spent any of the hypothetical $100 billion on a border wall with Mexico.