Opioid Epidemic Needs Public-Health, Harm-Reduction Approach to Addiction Treatment

Lenore A. Kola, PhD, of the Center for Evidence-Based Practices at Case Western Reserve University has co-authored an editorial that encourages lawmakers and other policymakers to abandon harsh opinions and policies which may brand people who suffer from addiction to alcohol and other drugs, including opioids, as morally inadequate and, thus, not entitled to or eligible for treatment.

Kola and her co-author, Mark I. Singer, PhD, of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences (school of social work) at Case Western Reserve argue that the time has come for social systems to adopt a public-health approach to addiction treatment that includes harm reduction. In the public-health model, individuals with chronic physical health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes are not denied treatment because of their illnesses or experiences of relapse. Relapse is considered a part of the disease process: it is something to be managed with medication and other medical and behavioral interventions.

"In a harm reduction model, relapse is an expectation, and not an exception," Kola and Singer write. "It is particularly disheartening to hear lawmakers call for first responders to ignore opioid overdose calls and not administer naloxone as in 'three strikes, you’re out.'"
The co-authors call for public policies that will support a new model of addiction treatment that will provide individuals "with the needed services over time rather than incarceration and isolation."

Get Editorial Online

Kola and Singer's editorial, titled "An epidemic about moral failure or a public health emergency?", was published online by the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com on August 18, 2017.

Mark I. Singer, PhD, is Leonard W. Mayo Professor in Family and Child Welfare at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.