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Evidence-Based Interventions to Address the Opioid Epidemic

Addiction Policy Forum – 2022

Drug overdose deaths are devastating communities across the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 107,622 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2021 — the highest ever reported in a 12-month period. With 295 people dying from drug overdoses each day, there is a critical and urgent need for evidence-based strategies that address the substance use disorder (SUD) epidemic. To change the trajectory of the epidemic, the gap between science and its application in the field must be addressed. Researchers estimate that it takes an average of 17 years for scientific discovery to be adopted in daily practice, and when adopted only 14% of evidence-based knowledge is fully implemented into clinical practice. This nearly two-decade delay in translating research into practice has hampered the adoption of new treatments, tests, and clinical standards for everything from flu vaccines to diabetic eye exams to cholesterol screenings. The gap has horrific consequences when it comes to addiction by creating barriers that affect patient access to evidence-based treatment, harm reduction, primary prevention, and early intervention. Evidence-based prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery practices for SUD have been proven for decades, yet are drastically underutilized nationwide. It is critically important to increase the uptake of evidence-based solutions in cities, counties, communities, healthcare systems, schools and criminal justice agencies to improve our response to addiction nationwide. This report highlights 24 evidence-based strategies designed to address the opioid epidemic at state-, county-, and community-levels. Each chapter features an evidence-based or emerging strategy, distills supporting research, and spotlights an innovative program or policy that exemplifies the strategy in practice.