Six Key Steps to Transform Opioid Use Disorder Treatment

According to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were more than 107,000 drug-overdose deaths in the United States in 2021, with most of these deaths involving opioids. Providing universal and immediate access to treatment, including medications, is one of the most evidence-based ways to reverse this trend. There are many barriers (stigma, structural challenges, lack of infrastructure) that affect an individual’s access to lifesaving medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).


Earlier this month, Dr. Rahul Gupta, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) was lead author on a perspective article published in the New England Journal of Medicine which provides six recommendations for increasing access to MOUD for individuals with substance use disorder (SUD).


The perspective article gave six specific actions clinicians, health care systems, and policymakers can implement to improve access to MOUD:

  1. Support increased addiction-treatment and education infrastructure.

  2. Increase access to prescription MOUD in clinical and community-based programs, such as “low-threshold” buprenorphine treatment, an approach that embraces the harm-reduction philosophy of meeting patients where they are.

  3. Ease restrictions on telemedicine.

  4. Increase access to MOUD treatment for people while they are incarcerated to help decrease the risk of overdose upon reentry.

  5. Develop and support programs to address social determinants of health (food insecurity, income inequality, discrimination, housing instability, and homelessness) among people with SUD.

  6. Use patient-first terminology (e.g., “person with substance use disorder” rather than “addict”) and take other steps to reduce stigma in the health care system against people with opioid use disorder (OUD).

The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is a component of the Executive Office of the President, and leads and coordinates the nation’s drug policy so that it improves the health and lives of the American people. Click here to learn more.


The full article is available here: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2210121