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Symposium Gathers Teams of Researchers to Address Opioid Addiction and Overdose

Drug overdoses are among the few causes of death on the rise, and now kill more people than guns or motor vehicles. From 2014 to 2015 alone, the number of drug deaths in North Carolina increased by 22%, over half attributed to opioids, a class of drugs that includes both illegal (such as illicit heroin) and prescription (such as morphine, hydrocodone, and prescription fentanyl) substances.

Steve Marshall, PhD
Steve Marshall, PhD

At a recent symposium, UNC epidemiologist Steve Marshall urged some 100 physicians, public health researchers, basic scientists, and pharmacists, to put their heads together to come up with solutions for what many call the worst drug crisis in American history.

"Think about how much was done to prevent motor vehicle deaths — seat belts, modifications to roads and cars, driver training," said Marshall, who directs the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center. "We need to build up that kind of commitment to prevent drug overdoses, from a research standpoint. If one of us was going to solve this on our own, that would have happened a long time ago. That is why team science is so important."

Marshall made his comments at "Combating Opioid Addiction and Overdose: Advancing Science and Policy," a five-hour symposium held on Thursday, May 25 in the Blue Cross Blue Shield Auditorium at Rosenau Hall on the UNC campus.

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Michelle Maclay, Communications Director