Letter from the Editors - The Opioid Epidemic

Dear Reader,


We are excited to welcome you back to The Signal to Noise Magazine with our first quarterly issue. In our absence, we have restructured the magazine to bring you stories throughout the month that are focused on a single topic, allowing us to develop and explore narratives on a particular topic in greater depth and complexity. During the interim months between our quarterly issues, we will still be publishing articles from non-staff contributors on a variety of topics in science. To this end, we highly encourage early career scientists to continue to submit pitches for publication in The Signal to Noise Magazine.


For our first quarterly issue, we have chosen to address the current opioid epidemic. The decision to focus on this topic developed internally from both personal reasons as addiction has touched the lives of many—including some of our staffs’—and the recognition that the scientific community has remained rather silent on the subject. Thus, we felt it was time to explore this crisis that has impacted millions of people suffering from addiction, destroyed families, and created a global economic burden.


We have chosen to cover different aspects of this epidemic ranging from pieces that address the scientific foundation and discovery of opiates to those exploring the hidden dangers of opioids to young and old sufferers of addiction. We will end with a look at new ways scientists are working to combat chronic pain and addiction. Public health projects and policies aimed at battling opioid dependence have been crucial to long-term solutions. Needle-exchange programs are preventing the spread of infectious diseases and offer excellent volunteer opportunities for people to benefit their local communities [1]. On a larger scale, policies are being drafted in many state legislatures, including California, proposing the public funding of safe injection clinics that provide medical staff and a safe place for patients suffering from addiction. These clinics have been shown to be essential in helping sufferers overcome addiction in Europe and are a hallmark in the fight against overdoses in many countries [2]. As an informed community, we must recognize that an estimated 83% of people addicted to opioids began using opiates prescribed for chronic pain management by healthcare professionals and were incorrectly weaned off of their medication [3-5]. We are dealing with the consequences of a failed treatment policy and not a failure of judgment on the part of patients suffering from addiction.


Our goal at The Signal to Noise Magazine is to craft stories that provide insight into the critical points of this public health crisis alongside resources, statistics, and information that may prove useful to you, our reader. We are excited to share this issue with you, and we look forward to providing you with the best information from as close to the laboratory bench as possible. Thank you for your readership.





Stephanie DeMarco, Nisar Farhat, and Alex Sercel





[1] Wejnert, C., Hess, K. L., Hall, H. I., Handel, M. V., Hayes, D., Fulton, P., An, Q., Koenig, L. J., Prejean, J. & Valleroy, L. A. Vital Signs: Trends in HIV Diagnoses, Risk Behaviors, and Prevention Among Persons Who Inject Drugs — United States. MMWR. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 65,1336–1342 (2016).

[2] Marshall, B. D., Milloy, M.-J., Wood, E., Montaner, J. S. & Kerr, T. Reduction in overdose mortality after the opening of North Americas first medically supervised safer injecting facility: a retrospective population-based study. The Lancet 377,1429–1437 (2011).

[3] Shei, A., Rice, J. B., Kirson, N. Y., Bodnar, K., Birnbaum, H. G., Holly, P. & Ben-Joseph, R. Sources of prescription opioids among diagnosed opioid abusers. Current Medical Research and Opinion 31,779–784 (2015).

[4] Compton, W. M., Boyle, M. & Wargo, E. Prescription opioid abuse: Problems and responses. Preventive Medicine 80,5–9 (2015).

[5] Volkow, N. D. & Mclellan, A. T. Opioid Abuse in Chronic Pain — Misconceptions and Mitigation Strategies. New England Journal of Medicine 374,1253–1263 (2016).


Check out our timeline of the Opioid Epidemic here.

Screenshot timeline.jpg