The evolution of the overdose epidemic and CDC’s research response: a commentary

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Abstract

The United States drug overdose epidemic has reached an all-time high, with 2020 provisional mortality data indicating that over 90,000 lives were lost to drug overdose in the 12-months ending in December 2020. The overdose epidemic has evolved over time with respect to the substances involved in overdose deaths and also with respect to the geographic distribution and epidemiology of deaths involving specific substances. Thus, a nimble approach to addressing the epidemic and preventing future overdoses is needed. CDC’s response to the overdose epidemic supports implementation efforts at the state and local levels, where partners can better detect and respond to the evolving drug overdose landscape and implement prevention measures that meet their needs. CDC’s framework for responding to the overdose epidemic focuses on five areas: (1) conducting surveillance and research; (2) building state, local and tribal capacity; (3) supporting providers, health systems and payers; (4) partnering with public safety; and (5) empowering consumers to make safe choices. Central to informing the implementation of evidence-based strategies to prevent drug overdose is rigorous research that undergirds the evidence. This Commentary describes recent investments in overdose prevention research and outlines opportunities for ensuring that future research efforts allow for the flexibility necessary to effectively respond to the continually evolving epidemic.

Keywords: overdose, overdose prevention, prevention research.

Citation: Holland KM, DePadilla L, Gervin DW, Parker EM, Wright M. The evolution of the overdose epidemic and CDC’s research response: a commentary. Drugs Context. 2021;10:2021-8-2. https://doi.org/10.7573/dic.2021-8-2

Contributions: All authors contributed equally to the preparation of this review. All named authors meet the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) criteria for authorship for this article, take responsibility for the integrity of the work as a whole and have given their approval for this version to be published.

Disclosure and potential conflicts of interest: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC/ATSDR. The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to this manuscript. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) Potential Conflicts of Interests form for the authors is available for download at: https://www.drugsincontext.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/dic.2021-8-2-COI.pdf

Acknowledgements: We would like to acknowledge recipients of research funding from CDC’s Division of Overdose Prevention, particularly those funded under CE19-002, ‘Research Grants to Identify Effective Strategies for Opioid Overdose Prevention’, whose work is highlighted in this special issue.

Funding declaration: There was no funding associated with the preparation of this article. Copyright: Copyright © 2021 Holland KM, DePadilla L, Gervin DW, Parker EM, Wright M. Published by Drugs in Context under Creative Commons License Deed CC BY NC ND 4.0 which allows anyone to copy, distribute, and transmit the article provided it is properly attributed in the manner specified below. No commercial use without permission.

Correct attribution: Copyright © 2021 Holland KM, DePadilla L, Gervin DW, Parker EM, Wright M. https://doi.org/10.7573/dic.2021-8-2. Published by Drugs in Context under Creative Commons License Deed CC BY NC ND 4.0.

Article URL: https://www.drugsincontext.com/the-evolution-of-the-overdose-epidemic-and-cdcs-research-response-a-commentary

Correspondence: Kristin M Holland, Division of Overdose Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy, Atlanta, GA 30341, USA. Email: imh1@cdc.gov

Provenance: Invited; externally peer reviewed.

Submitted: 4 August 2021; Accepted: 18 October 2021; Publication date: 15 December 2021.

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