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Preventing Opioid Use Disorders

Communicating health consequences, stopping addiction before it occurs

The most effective means of combatting the opioid crisis is keeping people from misusing opioids in the first place. Program evaluations empower public health experts and policymakers with data to determine the effectiveness of various strategies. These analyses save money and lives by informing decision-makers about where prevention improvements are needed.

For example, through the RTI Health Solutions Payer Advisory Council we engage with payers, payer decision-makers, and health technology assessment agencies to evaluate coverage and reimbursement policies. We also conduct educational summits and workshops to educate stakeholders and inform policy changes.

We also work with state and local government agencies, community-based organizations, and foundations to evaluate their intervention efforts. For example, we work with The University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy to develop forecasts of opioid use disorder treatment need at the Bronx Treatment Alternatives for Safer Communities, an alternative program to incarceration. Our forecasts are based on analyzing how well the program provides HIV/AIDS education, testing, counseling, and treatment resources to substance-abusing offenders and offenders with co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Communication is another critical component of prevention. Messages and public health campaigns can help Americans make better decisions about the risks, benefits, and uncertainties of opioids. Effective campaigns require a sophisticated understanding of the intended audience and the types of messages to which they respond to promote informed decision making. Our researchers have developed and evaluated critical social marketing and public health communications programs for decades. This includes groundbreaking efforts on the risks and benefits of direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising.

To truly mitigate the opioid crisis and prevent future addiction, pharmaceutical companies are working to develop safe and effective medications that are non-addicting or deter abuse. We have experts who support these companies in their development efforts and have conducted targeted literature reviews and developed payer-focused communication tools for a client developing opioids with abuse-deterrent technology.