Preventing Opioid Use Disorder


The Research Need 

According to the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 9.5 million people age 12 or older had misused opioids in the past year, and 2.7 million people had an opioid use disorder. Effective prevention reduces the risk that any of these individuals begins misusing opioids or progresses to opioid use disorder. Although there are a variety of effective strategies for preventing substance use disorders, it is unknown how well they work to prevent opioid misuse or opioid use disorder.  

There is a particular need for prevention interventions that can be used in systems and settings that reach populations most affected by the opioid crisis. Persistent challenges implementing, scaling up, and sustaining prevention interventions make it difficult for organizations and public systems to provide access to prevention services for all who might benefit.  

About the Program 

Research in this program will generate science that will, ultimately, enable healthcare organizations and public systems to make evidence-based preventive intervention services available and accessible to all people at risk for opioid and other substance misuse or disorders. Prevention solutions to the opioid crisis need to be developed in partnership with the organizations and systems that can sustain the services long-term. This comprehensive research program focuses on four strategic areas: identifying risk; studying the role of social determinants and policy, particularly their impacts on health equity; developing effective interventions; and supporting research toward disseminating and implementing sustainable, scalable prevention services.  

Researchers will aim to improve access to prevention services among populations with risk for opioid misuse, with a focus on underserved populations that experience health disparities (such as the justice system, homeless shelters, the child welfare system, emergency departments, and community health centers). Researchers will also develop interventions that target key periods of time when individual risk of starting opioid misuse is high (such as the transition from adolescence into young adulthood, during mental health challenges or a crisis, or when experiencing pain or starting opioid-based pain management).  

The program supports research projects with a community engagement strategy specific to their intervention and implementation within a target setting to integrate user experiences and perspectives important for the future implementation and scale-up of the interventions

Program Details

To date, through the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, the program funds a range of awards that advance science across four strategic areas.

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Research Examples

Research examples supported by this program include: 

  • Developing and testing interventions to prevent opioid misuse and opioid use disorder among young people age 15 to 30 in various settings and with a range of populations   
  • Building an evidence base for interventions that target malleable factors and conditions affecting social determinants of health 
  • Designing multi-level interventions that modify social context, delineating the mechanisms through which interventions can improve social conditions and decrease opioid misuse risk 
  • Testing economic costs and outcomes of interventions focused on social determinants   
  • Identifying risk and protective factors and trajectories or pathways to opioid misuse and opioid use disorder, including examining associations between tobacco, cannabis, and opioid use 
  • Adapting and assessing effects of existing substance use prevention interventions on opioid use outcomes among young people 
  • Examining how social networks affect opioid use disorder, related risks, and intervention outcomes, focusing on disparate populations within American Indian/Alaska Native communities 

Research Institution Awards

  • Boston Medical Center – Massachusetts
  • Brown University – Rhode Island
  • Emory University – Georgia
  • Indian Health Council, Inc. – California
  • Johns Hopkins University – Maryland
  • Kaiser Foundation Research Institute – California
  • Massachusetts General Hospital – Massachusetts
  • New York University School of Medicine – New York
  • Ohio State University – Ohio
  • Oregon Health and Science University – Oregon
  • Oregon Social Learning Center – Oregon
  • RAND Corporation – California
  • Seattle Children’s Hospital – Washington
  • Texas Christian University – Texas
  • University of Colorado, Denver – Colorado 
  • University of Maryland, College Park – Maryland
  • University of Michigan at Ann Arbor – Michigan
  • University of Oregon – Oregon
  • University of Pittsburgh at Pittsburgh – Pennsylvania
  • University of Washington – Washington
  • University of Utah – Utah
  • Washington University – Missouri
  • West Virginia University – West Virginia
  • Yale University – Connecticut

Coordinating Center Award

  • RTI Institute – North Carolina

Funded Projects

Disrupting Social Determinants of Health to Improve Substance Use and Mental Health Outcomes for Parents in Rural Regions
Sep 19, 2022
Optimized Interventions to Prevent Opioid Use Disorder among Adolescents and Young Adults in the Emergency Department
Sep 25, 2021
The Role of Family Functioning and Race/Ethnicity on the Efficacy of an Opioid Misuse Prevention Videogame Intervention for Adolescents
Sep 25, 2021
Preventing Substance Misuse and Substance Use Disorder by Examining Service Provider Interactions, Discrimination, Ethnic Identity, Sexual Orientation Identity, and Housing First Outcomes
Sep 25, 2021
Social networks of young American Indian adolescents and their parents:Characteristics, connections, and response to intervention
Sep 29, 2020

Closed Funding Opportunities

Mentored Research Scientist Development Award (Parent K01)
Sep 25, 2019
HEAL Initiative: Request for Administrative Supplements to Existing Grants to Accelerate Research on Preventing Opioid Use Disorder in Older Adolescents and Young Adults (ages 16-30)
Sep 25, 2019