The Opioid Crisis

A digital map visualizing the complexity of America's opioid crisis by identifying leverage points, stakeholders, intervention points, feedback loops, etc. on an individual, communal, and national scale.

SYSTEMS THINKING / GRAPHIC DESIGN 

/ DESIGN RESEARCH / VISUALIZATION

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PROJECT OVERVIEW

Elysha Tsai, Joseph Kim, Teresa Lourie, Zimmy Kang

TEAM

User research, composition/layout, developing cohesive and engaging visual design/graphics

ROLE

Figma (worked remotely due to Covid-19)

PROGRAMS

3 weeks (Spring 2020)

TIMELINE

THE PROBLEM

Over recent decades, the opioid crisis in the United States has become the worst addiction epidemic in our nation’s history, and present research shows an upward trend in opioid-related death rates in northeastern states especially. 

Our map proposes several leverage points that aim to intervene in terms of education, policy, healthcare, the environment, and the economy. Because of the complex and ever-changing nature of a wicked problem, we propose multiple methods and ways to manage and contain the issue at smaller scales.

INITIAL RESEARCH

While doing our preliminary research, we mess mapped our findings on key topics such as treatment methods, government intervention, mental and physical health effects, history, etc.

IDENTIFYING INTERCONNECTIONS

We branched our research into multiple levels of analysis—social, technological, environmental,

and political—and then began identifying interrelationships between topics.

To build our narrative, we categorized our map

into cause, effect, and solution. This approach,

however, was too linear and simple for a problem this complex.

HISTORY

Social Context

Pre-Existing Conditions

In the 1980s, Society began to move towards prescribing controlled substances for terminal patients.

System Vulnerability

The pre-existing structure of our health-care system allows private practitioners to prescribe opioids for financial gain.

Racial & Socio-Economic Attitudes

Purdue Pharma focused the initial marketing of OxyContin on suburban and rural white communities, targeting doctors who were “serving patients that were not thought to be at risk for addiction.”

Historical Context

First Wave (1991)
Prescription Opioids


Sharp increase in opioid prescriptions due to public misconception of the risk of addiction.

Second Wave (2010)
Heroin


Decrease in opioid prescribing, thus addicts turned to heroin.

Third Wave (2013)
Synthetic Opioids (Fentanyl)


Rise in drug-related deaths due to fentanyl related drugs manufactered illegally.

THREE HORIZONS

Horizon 1: the current and near future

Horizon 2: innovation toward a more far out future

Horizon 3: the ideal distant future

       Horizon 1

  • High opioid addiction rates

  • Corruption

  • Stigma

  • Increased homelessness

  • Poor criminal justice system

  • Spread of disease

       Horizon 2

  • Needle exchange programs

  • Education system

  • Shift in stigma

  • Increase in federal funding

       Horizon 3

  • Low opioid addiction rates

  • Streamlined implementation 

  • Effective legislation

  • Rehabilitation facilities

  • Improved technology

  • No stigma

  • Streamlined education system

AREAS OF INTERVENTION

We identified six points of intervention across various topics—education and legislation reform, environmental issues, decriminalization, and other treatment opportunities.

VISUAL LANGUAGE

Color

Iterations and Visual Explorations

opioid crisis gigamap maggie ma

© 2021 by Maggie Ma