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American College of Preventive Medicine: Addressing the Opioid Epidemic Through a Prevention Framework

      The opioid epidemic has resulted in significant morbidity and mortality in the U.S. Health systems, policymakers, payers, and public health have enacted numerous strategies to reduce the harms of opioids, including opioid use disorder (OUD). Much of this implementation has occurred before the development of OUD‒related comparative effectiveness evidence, which would enable an understanding of the benefits and harms of different approaches. This article from the American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) uses a prevention framework to identify the current approaches and make recommendations for addressing the opioid epidemic, encompassing strategies across a primordial, primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention approach.
      Key primordial prevention strategies include addressing social determinants of health and reducing adverse childhood events. Key primary prevention strategies include supporting the implementation of evidence-based prescribing guidelines, expanding school-based prevention programs, and improving access to behavioral health supports. Key secondary prevention strategies include expanding access to evidence-based medications for opioid use disorder, especially for high-risk populations, including pregnant women, hospitalized patients, and people transitioning out of carceral settings. Key tertiary prevention strategies include the expansion of harm reduction services, including expanding naloxone availability and syringe exchange programs.
      The ACPM Opioid Workgroup also identifies opportunities for de-implementation, in which historical and current practices may be ineffective or causing harm. De-implementation strategies include reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing; avoiding mandatory one-size-fits-all policies; eliminating barriers to medications for OUD, debunking the myth of detoxification as a primary solo treatment for opioid use disorder; and destigmatizing care practices and policies to better treat people with OUD.
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