Congressional Briefing Highlights Research for Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

On June 24, the National Prevention Science Coalition (NPSC), RTI International (a COSSA member organization), and the American Orthopsychiatry Association sponsored a Congressional briefing, Fighting the Opioid Epidemic on Multiple Fronts by Leveraging Empirical Evidence, to discuss “research-based evidence for strategies preventing, intervening, and maintaining abstinence from opiate addictions.” The briefing’s speakers included Scott Novak, RTI International; Terrence Walton, National Association of Drug Court Professionals; and Kenzie Preston, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

Novak’s presentation, “Opioids in America: Opportunities for Prevention and Treatment,” addressed the scope of the United States’ opioid crisis from a scientific perspective and potential opportunities for intervention. He cautioned that the crisis goes beyond the number of overdoses and extends to HIV/AIDS, in part due to the lack of needle exchange and methadone/drug treatment programs. Novak also highlighted the role of long acting Oxycodone and prescription pain reliever misuse and the nonmedical use of prescription opioids as a risk for heroin use/abuse.

In his presentation, “America’s Most Trusted Alternative to Incarceration Is Providing Hope in the Midst of the Opiate Crisis,” Walton described the mission and activities of drugs courts, which are “special court dockets or calendars designed to treat those with substance use disorders and help them change their lives.” The courts provide a “public health response to addiction and mental illness in the justice system,” noted Walton. Citing the National Institute of Justice’s Multi-Site Adult Drug Court Study, which found that the courts significantly reduce drug use and crime, he emphasized that the courts work.

Preston described the various treatments available for opioid addictions, including behavioral therapy and medication for relapse prevention, pathways to abstinence, and NIDA-supported research designed to improve treatment in her presentation, “Treatment of Opioid-Use Disorders: Pathways to Abstinence.” She also examined the promise of mobile health technologies on the horizon, including those that measure mood and behavior, GPS, and biosensors.

COSSA is a partner of NPSC. Videos and the presentations from the session are available on NPSC’s website.

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