Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic


The opioid crisis is complex. Together, we can overcome it.

Every day, an estimated 130 Americans die from an opioid overdose – a grim statistic that has devastated families and communities around the nation. Due to the complex and urgent nature of the epidemic, reversing the opioid crisis will require a multi-sectoral and multi-pronged response; no organization, government agency, or sector can solve this crisis on its own.

To improve coordination and accelerate the pace of change, the National Academy of Medicine has partnered with the Aspen Institute and more than 60 participants across the different sectors to form the Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic, representing critical stakeholder organizations across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. The Action Collaborative is committed to developing, curating, and disseminating multi-sector solutions designed to reduce opioid misuse and improve outcomes for individuals, families, and communities affected by the opioid crisis.

The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating ongoing public health emergencies, including the addiction crisis in the United States. During these challenging times, the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic remains wholly committed to supporting the health and well-being of individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs), including opioid use disorder, and chronic pain. These individuals are among the most at risk and susceptible to COVID-19, and their care and treatment are among the most disrupted by physical distancing and other measures that have been put into place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Members of the Action Collaborative’s Steering Committee have identified a series of priorities and strategies for providers, health systems, researchers, policymakers, regulators, and health leaders alike to preserve the health and well-being of individuals with SUD and chronic pain.

Read the full statement>>

About the Action Collaborative

The Action Collaborative conducts its work around four core priority areas: Health Professional Education and Training; Pain Management Guidelines and Evidence Standards; Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Services; and Research, Data, and Metrics Needs.

The Action Collaborative produces discussion papers to advance the field and accelerate action where the evidence dictates; conducts outreach; and leads convenings, webinars, and other special events to accelerate the translation of the most promising opportunities to reverse the opioid crisis. 

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Action Collaborative Leadership

Victor Dzau, Chair
ADM Brett Giroir, Co-Chair
Ruth Katz, Co-Chair
Jonathan Perlin, Co-Chair


Action Collaborative Working Groups

Click here to view members of our four working groups. 


Action Collaborative Staff

Elizabeth Finkelman, Director
Aisha Salman, Associate Program Officer
Rebecca Sullenger, Research Assistant
Jarrett Nguyen, Program Specialist
Jenna Ogilvie, Deputy Director, Communications
Olivia Ramirez, Communications Officer

New Discussion Paper from the Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic

Publication Summary

The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented crisis of prescription and illicit opioid misuse, use disorder, and overdose. Although the crisis has affected large swaths of the U.S. population, it has impacted certain segments of the population with an extra level of intensity—justice-involved populations, rural populations, veterans, adolescents and young adults, and people who inject drugs. Research has clearly shown that solutions for the opioid overdose epidemic are not one size fits all, and special attention should be paid to these populations that may be suffering unduly.

The discussion paper “The American Opioid Epidemic in Special Populations: Five Examples” focuses on these five identified populations and, for each, reviews why the population warrants focused attention, current barriers encountered in accessing care, promising approaches in supporting this population, and high-impact research and action priorities.

Discussion Paper on Supporting Tapering Patients on Long-Term Opioid Therapy for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain in Outpatient Settings

Ensuring high-quality, respectful, and appropriate management of chronic non-cancer pain (CNCP) in the context of the U.S. opioid crisis is a critical and complex endeavor. Unfortunately, data regarding the best way to proceed with care for these patients in terms of opioid maintenance or tapering are lacking. The evidence supporting the use of opioids in managing CNCP is weak, and there is now strong evidence that chronic opioid use among CNCP patients can be detrimental, particularly at high doses.

The discussion paper “Best Practices, Research Gaps, and Future Priorities to Support Tapering Patients on Long-Term Opioid Therapy for Chronic Non-Cancer Pain in Outpatient Settings” focuses on key decision points and available evidence to support tapering strategies for specific patient populations of long-term opioid use being treated for CNCP in the out-patient setting. This document summarizes the key messages from the discussion paper, as well as identified priorities for future research. It must be reiterated that the needs of each patient are unique and should be approached on a case-by-case basis. Clinicians should review the risks and benefits of tapering for each patient and proceed in a way that is informed by individual circumstances.

Webinar from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists: Caring for Patients with Opioid Use Disorder During COVID-19

Patients with opioid use disorder require close monitoring and consistent access to care. This activity will offer information and resources to ensure care for this patient population is not interrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presenters include a pharmacist and physician with expertise in addiction medicine and staff from the National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic.

Supporting People with Addiction During COVID-19

Access the recordings, presentation slides, and related resources from a NAM and ASAM webinar series, which provided insight and targeted guidance on how to ensure individuals with addiction are cared for and protected during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Each 90-minute webinar features presentations from a panel of experts and a Q&A session with participants.


Action Collaborative Virtual Symposium – November 12, 2020 


  • Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education
  • Aetna
  • American Hospital Association
  • American Medical Association
  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
  • Arnold Ventures
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • CDC Foundation
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
  • Council of Medical Specialty Societies
  • Federation of State Medical Boards
  • HCA Healthcare
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

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