Study aimed at reducing opioid overdose deaths presents results

Spectrum News highlights UC researchers and HEALing Communities Study

The University of Cincinnati's John Winhusen and Caroline Freiermuth discussed the evidence-based practices implemented during the HEALing Communities Study to fight the opioid epidemic with Spectrum News.

The national effort to reduce opioid-related overdose deaths has laid the groundwork for more widely available opioid use disorder treatment, safer prescribing practices, and community-based overdose education and naloxone distribution that can save lives, according to researchers who led Ohio’s participation in the initiative.

Launched in 2019, the HEALing (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Communities Study (HCS) is the largest addiction prevention and treatment implementation study ever conducted. Researchers from the four participating states reported June 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine and at the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) annual meeting that there was not a statistically significant reduction in opioid overdose death rate during the evaluation period.

“It was an enormous success," Winhusen, PhD, the Donald C. Harrison Endowed Chair in Medicine and professor and vice chair for addiction sciences in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at UC's College of Medicine, HCS co-principal investigator for Ohio and director of the University of Cincinnati Center for Addiction Research told Spectrum News. "In Ohio, we had 18 counties participate, and in those 18 counties, we implemented over 250 evidence based practices. Most of those were focused on increasing naloxone distribution.”

Naloxone, also called by its brand name of Narcan, is the drug that can be used to reverse an opioid overdose.

Freiermuth said some of the interventions implemented or expanded by the study in the emergency department setting included implementing a screening question on opioid use and providing naloxone, wound kits, fentanyl test strips and other harm reduction supplies.

“The HEALing community study came with funds and came with some technical assistance, and we were able to utilize that to help move things forward," Freirmuth, MD, associate professor in UC's College of Medicine, told Spectrum News. "So they really were focused on screening and then they were focused on how do we treat people and how do we really initiate medications for opioid use disorder.”

Watch or read the Spectrum News story.

Read more about the study results.

Featured photo at top of bottles of injectable naloxone. Photo/iStock/PowerofForever.


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