There’s a new approach in the US drug control strategy
Administration releases National Drug Control Strategy
May 31, 2022
The Biden administration released its first National Drug Control Strategy on April 21. The document lays out priorities for how federal agencies will address the opioid epidemic, focusing on increasing the number of people in evidence-based treatment and addressing drug trafficking.
Notably, this is the first time that an administration has included harm reduction as a key element in the Strategy. The document describes harm reduction as “an approach that emphasizes working directly with people who use drugs (PWUD) to prevent overdose and infectious disease transmission, improve the physical, mental, and social wellbeing of those served, and offer low-threshold options for accessing substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and other health care services.”
The Strategy details the evidence-based supporting the use of harm reduction programs, and discusses in detail the following harm reduction approaches:
- Syringe service programs; and
- Provision of fentanyl test strips.
In order for harm reduction programs to be fully implemented, changes in state policies may be needed. (Principle 2 includes removing policies that may block adoption of programs that work.) The National Drug Control Strategy highlights two areas that states should assess in particular:
- Good Samaritan laws, which provide legal protections for people who call 911 when they see someone who has had an overdose and needs medical attention; and
- Unnecessary restrictions on drug checking, syringe service programs, and starting buprenorphine at harm reduction programs.
As jurisdictions make decisions on how to spend dollars from the opioid litigation, they should assess the adequacy of their harm reduction approaches and consider funding additional programs as needed. More details on the implementation of harm reduction programs can be found in the Primer on Spending Funds from the Opioid Litigation.