OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOverdose deaths caused by the abuse of prescription opioids are a fairly common occurrence these days. Rampant over prescribing, doctor shopping, and “pill mills” have all played a part in the rise in dependence to these powerful and potentially lethal prescription narcotics. While the federal government has worked hard to curb the problem, the reality is that prescription opioids are not going anywhere, and people will continue to lose their lives.

A new analysis conducted at Columbia University in New York, has found that the number of prescription drug overdoses each year in the U.S. will peak in 2017, the Wall Street Journal reports.

A team of professors used a theory called Farr’s Law to come up with their findings. Farr’s Law is basically the idea that an epidemic generally follows a pattern, a symmetrical curve that will go up before subsiding. The theory has been previously applied to a number of other epidemics, such as smallpox and AIDS, but the authors say there was mixed results, according to the article.

The professors point out that this was not an academic exercise, they believe the patterns they uncover in their findings may unlock clues regarding which public policy is making a dent in the problem.

“Our projections, if partially accurate, may help assess intermediate outcomes to gauge whether interventions are working and guide long-term planning and management of public health resources and prevention efforts,” they write. Two of the four authors, by the way, are also editors of the journal.

The professors believe that by 2034 the number of prescription drug overdoses will fall back to much lower rates last seen in the early 1980’s. Hopefully, the professors findings hold true and the nation will see a drop in the number of prescription opioid deaths.

The findings were published in the medical journal Injury Epidemiology.