On Friday afternoon, June 24, the National Prevention Science Coalition sponsored a briefing, Fighting the Opioid Epidemic on Multiple Fronts by Leveraging Empirical Evidence.  Panelists included Scott P Novak, RTI International, Terrence Watson, National Association of Drug Court Professionals, and Kenzie Preston, National Institute of Drug Abuse.

Dr. Novak presented some of the history of the recent increase in opioid and heroin addiction.  He outlined a history of the use of oxycodone in the mid-1990s and how, due to is formation, there were many in the medical community who believed it’s design would prevent addiction. That resulted in its more frequent use but around 2000 when users started to crush the pills undercutting its time-release format it had an impact. The message was that prevention strategies need to look beyond basic strategies and should design prevention approaches that consider various factors.

Mr. Watson presented research conducted through his organization and ALL RISE.  Survey information of drug court participants, indicates significant increases in heroin addiction between surveys in 2009 and 2014.  Between 2009 and 2014, with heroin as the main addiction, heroin use increased from 9 percent to 22% in urban areas, 21 percent to 31 percent in rural areas and increased from 13 percent to 34 percent in suburban areas.

In his later remarks and talking about prevention he discussed the impact on children saying that when you treat adults through drug courts you’re also preventing future drug use by their children as evidenced by some of their research.

When panelists were asked for their policy recommendations for Capitol Hill recommendations included, don’t base your policy and legislation on newspaper reports and what you read in magazines, research needs to be better connected to treatment strategies and policies, and look to alternatives to incarceration and probation.