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Center for Opioid Epidemiology & Policy Center for Opioid Epidemiology & Policy News

Center for Opioid Epidemiology & Policy News

NYU Langone’s Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy invites you to join our mailing list to receive our monthly newsletter, which features news in the field, center updates (including upcoming events, grant programs, and new faculty and student announcements), and research and media highlights. The newsletter presents our research findings alongside actionable approaches that policymakers, advocates, and the broader research community can incorporate into their work addressing the opioid overdose crisis.

Here are some recent research findings and highlights from our center’s investigators.

Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy Investigators Received Grant Awards

In recent months, members of the Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy have received various grants, supporting them in their work to end the opioid epidemic.

Jennifer McNeely, MD, and colleagues received $15 million in funding from the National Institute on Drug Abuse Clinical Trials Network and the National Institutes of Health Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative for a five-year national study that seeks to develop and test a collaborative care intervention for patients with complex needs and heightened overdose risk.

Charles J. Neighbors, PhD, MBA, and colleagues were granted a new R61/33 to study at-home dosing of methadone in partnership with the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports.

Amanda M. Bunting, PhD, and colleagues received a three-year National Institutes of Health Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative–funded R34 grant to study polysubstance use, adapting an existing post-traumatic stress disorder intervention, Skills Training in Affective and Interpersonal Regulation with Narrative Therapy, into a methadone treatment program for individuals engaged in sustained opioid-stimulant polysubstance use.

Magdalena Cerdá, DrPH, and colleagues were awarded a new R01 grant to prevent and reduce deaths and injuries from overdose in the United States by determining the best combination of harm reduction laws needed at the state and local level to reduce overdose rates and injection-related harms, the harm reduction services needed at the local level to maximize the impact of such laws, and making this information accessible on a publicly available dashboard.

Using Online Crowdsourced Data to Measure the Availability of Cannabis Home Delivery: A Pilot Study

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the proportion of retail cannabis sales occurring through home delivery services is growing rapidly, with important implications for public health and regulatory policy. However, research to better understand these implications is hindered by a lack of available data measuring the scale of home delivery. Prior research demonstrated that crowdsourced websites can be used to validly enumerate brick-and-mortar cannabis outlets for research. Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy member Ellicott C. Matthay, PhD, and colleagues piloted an adaptation of these methods to explore feasibility for quantifying the availability of cannabis home delivery, finding that web scraping online crowdsourced data may be a scalable solution to monitoring rapidly evolving cannabis delivery markets. Their results also suggest that access to cannabis home delivery in California is now nearly universal and far greater than availability previously estimated. These findings are crucial for informing cannabis control policies and underscore the importance of research incorporating measures of cannabis home delivery. Read the full article in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Impact of the 2017 FDA Drug Safety Communication on Codeine and Tramadol Dispensing to Children

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Drug Safety Communication (DSC) announcing a contraindication against codeine and tramadol use in children under 12 and against tramadol use in children under 18 after tonsillectomy, adenoidectomy, or both. The DSC also included a warning against codeine and tramadol use in adolescents with obesity or conditions that may increase the risk of respiratory depression. In this study, Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy members Victoria Jent, MAS; Tarlise Townsend, PhD; and Magdalena Cerdá, DrPH, sought to evaluate the association between this DSC and the monthly number of patients dispensed codeine or tramadol prescription in each age group. They found that codeine had immediate and sustained decreases in dispensing to youth, and tramadol also had decreases. Despite decreased codeine and tramadol dispensing, there were no increases in dispensing for other opioids. Future research should investigate specific prescribing practices, including prescriber specialties and linked patient diagnoses or procedures. In addition, despite the DSC, codeine and tramadol continue to be dispensed to children, suggesting further interventions are needed to ensure safe pain medication prescribing to children. Read the full article in Pediatrics.

Association Between Jail-Based Methadone or Buprenorphine Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder and Overdose Mortality After Release from New York City Jails

Opioid overdose is a leading cause of death during the immediate time after release from jail or prison. Most jails in the United States do not provide methadone and buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder, and research in estimating its impact in jail settings is limited. Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy members Maria R. Khan, PhD, MPH; Noa Krawczyk, PhD; and colleagues aimed to test the hypothesis that providing in-jail medications for opioid use disorder is associated with lower overdose mortality risk post release. They performed a retrospective, observational cohort study of more than 15,000 adults with opioid use disorder who were released from New York City jails to the community from 2011 to 2017. They found that methadone and buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder during incarceration was associated with an 80 percent reduction in overdose mortality risk for the first month post release. Read the full article in Addiction.

Fentanyl in Pressed Oxycodone Pills: A Qualitative Analysis of Online Community Experiences with an Emerging Drug Trend

There is a growing concern over the increased prevalence of fentanyl-contaminated oxycodone pills, referred to as M30s. This study, performed by Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy members Noa Krawczyk, PhD, Amanda Bunting, PhD, and colleagues, examined content on Reddit to understand people’s perceptions of and experiences with exposure to fentanyl-contaminated M30 pills. They analyzed a random subsample of 500 posts collected from January to July of 2021 from 71 drug-related subreddits using 34 fentanyl-related search terms. More than one third of subreddit posts with mention of fentanyl were related to pressed M30 pills. Three emergent themes related to pressed M30 pills were identified: suspicion of contamination in oxycodone pills, anxiety over composition of pills, and M30 mitigation and testing strategies. The study found that many people on Reddit who use drugs were aware of fentanyl contamination in the current pressed pill market, and that Reddit offered a space to network with others to discuss harm reduction strategies and anxieties surrounding the pervasiveness of fentanyl in the current drug market. Read the full article here in Substance Use & Misuse.

Integrating Ambulatory Addiction Consultation Service into a Community Mental Health Center

Despite the escalation in substance-related overdose mortality—culminating in more than 100,000 deaths in each of the first 2 years of the COVID-19 pandemic—healthcare systems have not kept up with the demands for care among people who use drugs. There remains a significant gap in access to evidence-based treatment. In this paper, Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy member Ayana Jordan, MD, PhD, and colleagues describe an innovative, yet simple and potentially replicable model for an ambulatory addiction consultation service in a large, advanced community mental health center. The addiction consult services have served to address this gap, as a critical intervention that engages mostly hospitalized patients and initiates addiction treatment in acute settings. However, little is known about addiction consult services in ambulatory settings. This paper proposes that this model of care could potentially serve to scale up the care for people who use drugs in the community by embedding the limited number of addiction professionals within existing ambulatory systems, thus extending their reach. Read the full article in Addiction Medicine.

The Outbreak and Sequelae of the Increase in Opioid Use in the United States, Canada, and Beyond

Center for Opioid Epidemiology and Policy member Samuel R. Friedman, PhD, and colleagues David C. Perlman and Ralph J. DiClemente authored an editorial on their Frontiers in Sociology research topic on the outbreak and sequelae of the increase in opioid use in the United States, Canada, and beyond, in which they provide an overview of the articles in the issue. Many of the research and innovative proposals discussed in the papers concern upstream interventions or expanding and improving existing harm reduction and treatment efforts. However, the authors also assert that ensuring a safer drug supply may reduce the overdose risks from synthetic opioid adulterants. Additionally, repealing the criminalization of drug use may lead to greater drug treatment seeking, reduced stigma, and, as a consequence, less opioid-associated mortality. Given the scope of the opioid crisis, they urge expanded efforts to develop, implement, and evaluate innovative strategies, community partnerships, and public health policies. Read the full editorial in Frontiers in Sociology.