How Academic Medicine is Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid misuse has devastated communities across the country, and a concerted, collective effort across multiple sectors is needed to stem the tide of opioid and substance use disorders (SUDs). Through their missions of education, research, and clinical care, medical schools and teaching hospitals are actively responding to this public health crisis and preparing the next generation of health care professionals to address the opioid epidemic.

By working with their communities and enhancing content on SUDs and pain management in both classroom and hands-on experiences, these institutions are integrating learning opportunities throughout medical education. Additionally, as leaders in groundbreaking medical research and lifesaving clinical care, medical schools and teaching hospitals are advancing efforts to prevent, identify, and treat SUDs and to manage pain.

Some of the actions that academic medicine, medical schools and teaching hospitals are taking to address the opioid problem include:

Medical education

  • Revamping the curriculum to enhance coverage of topics related to pain and SUDs.
    • Expanding education on naloxone and the treatment and prevention of overdoses.
    • Providing training on buprenorphine and medication assisted treatment.
    • Expanding training on diverse, evidence-based approaches to pain, including nonpharmacological methods.
    • Training health professions students to manage pain and treat SUDs in teams.

Patient care

  • Expanding access to long-term, medication-assisted treatment.
  • Increasing the integration of SUD management during emergency department and inpatient encounters.
  • Developing new pain-management protocols.
  • Partnering on drug take-back events, naloxone distribution, and other harm-reduction strategies.


  • Improving SUD treatment and advancing overdose reversal medications.
  • Developing nonaddictive pain medications.
  • Increasing the understanding of the basic biology of opioid action and metabolism.
  • Training new investigators to research addiction and pain.

To view specific examples of how institutions across the nation are responding to this public health crisis, read "How Academic Medicine is Addressing the Opioid Epidemic."


Last Updated: February 2019