Failed Study Cost Taxpayers $344 Million

( – A study that used $344 million of public money failed in its mission to reduce opioid deaths in any significant manner. The National Institutes of Health used congressional funds set aside in 2017 for combatting drug abuse to implement its Helping End Addiction Long-term (HEALing) Communities Study between January 2020 and June 2022.

The study involved 77 communities, with 33 of those used as control groups and 34 as intervention groups. Over a twelve-month period, the intervention groups were subject to a number of strategies to reduce opioid deaths. These strategies included educational programs and the provision of naloxone. Naloxone is the active ingredient in Narcan and is used to reverse or suppress the effects of opioid drugs. It can reduce the symptoms of opioids for 30 to 90 minutes at a time, although it can have side-effects such as nausea and agitation.

Researchers working on the study described their attempts to reduce opioid deaths by working closely with affected communities to “deploy evidence-based” methods of tackling the issue. Ultimately, they not only did not succeed in reaching their target of reducing deaths by 40%, but they found that any reduction in deaths was statistically insignificant.

National Institute on Drug Abuse official Redonna Chandler, who led the project, attributed some blame on the project’s unfortunate timing. Chandler pointed out that just months into the project in 2020, many lockdown restrictions were brought into effect and health services around the country were placed under immense strain due to the unusually high demand for medical care. Chandler lamented that her team struggled to gain access to hospitals and jails and other places in which they had planned to conduct research.

Despite this, Chandler said that her team had some success, in that they were able to put into place “hundreds of strategies that [they] know save lives”. The study’s report, while acknowledging that the project affected no significant reduction in deaths, proclaimed that the study had “the potential to yield lifesaving results” in the future thanks to the strategies implemented across those test communities.

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