RTI International Distinguished Fellow Alex H. Kral spoke as a panelist at a Washington Post Live panel discussion of the opioid epidemic, “Addiction in America: The New War on Drugs.”
The event brought together law enforcement, medical professionals, and experts in health policy, to discuss how the opioid epidemic is affecting communities across the country, disparities in access to treatment, and new strategies to confront the crisis.
Dr. Kral spoke about the evidence behind certain harm reduction strategies, including fentanyl test strips, medically assisted treatment, naloxone, and syringe exchange programs.
Drawing from his research evaluating the effects of community-based harm reduction programs, Dr. Kral also discussed the debate over safe consumption sites.
“There’s a lot of data from around the world where these sites have been operating for the last 30 years showing that they help reduce overdose deaths, they reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and facilitate people getting into medically assisted treatment,” said Dr. Kral. “They also reduce some of the nuisance issues in neighborhoods, like needles in the streets.”
Kral urged policymakers to consider evidence-backed approaches to fight the opioid epidemic, and moving forward, encouraged implementing innovative solutions to the opioid crisis, incorporating harm reduction measures in prevention and treatment.
Other panelists, including U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, discussed the latest federal government proposals aimed at prevention and treatment of opioid use and perspectives on the impact of opioids on communities.
A recording of the full event is also available for viewing online.