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Director of National Drug Control Policy discusses addiction research and prevention at Ohio State

Gupta spoke to experts from the Wexner Medical Center and the Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery

The national head of U.S. drug control and addiction efforts discussed effective research and programs at The Ohio State University this week.

Rahul Gupta leads the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and is the first medical doctor to serve as the director of National Drug Control Policy. Gupta participated in two sessions with experts from the Wexner Medical Center and the university’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery to discuss addiction and recovery trends, challenges and solutions.

ONDCP is responsible for developing and implementing the National Drug Control Strategy and budget. The office coordinates across 19 federal agencies and oversees a $43 billion budget to address addiction and the overdose epidemic.

“Today, as you know, we have 46 million Americans suffering from substance disorder,” Gupta said.

He pointed out that the nature of the drug addiction and overdose threat has changed with the rise of synthetic or made-to-order drugs. He said people ordering what they believe are prescription medicines online from unregulated websites run the risk of buying fentanyl-laced counterfeits.

At a roundtable of experts at the medical center, Gupta learned about the university’s naloxone distribution program that includes access sites across campus. University researchers also discussed Ohio State’s leadership of a new, state-sponsored research initiative to identify the root causes of the ongoing epidemic of persistent emotional distress, suicide and drug overdose in Ohio.

“I think it’s clear to all of us that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to addiction, and our treatments shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said panelist Stephanie Gorka, associate professor, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health. “There’s a lot of variability in how addiction develops and how people do or do not recover, and that’s really important.”

Gupta also listened to reports from peer recovery experts, addiction medicine clinicians, drug policy specialists and student leaders.

Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery 

Rahul Gupta (right) with experts from the Higher Education CenterFollowing his discussion at the medical center, Gupta spoke with a panel from the university’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Drug Misuse Prevention and Recovery.

The center is a collaboration between the College of Social Work, the College of Pharmacy and the Office of Student Life. The center provides tools, training and technical assistance to professionals across the country working to address collegiate substance misuse.

Jim Lange, executive director of the Higher Education Center, introduced Gupta to some of the programs supported by the center. They include ScreenU, a web-based screening, intervention and referral to treatment program that helps students identify their risk from substance use and connects them with strategies and resources local to their campus and community.

The Higher Education Center also supports the National Consortium of State Coalitions, which brings together the leaders of statewide collegiate wellness coalitions to network and learn from each other.

“What we try to maintain is always welcoming in new folks into our community, getting them as networked as possible and providing the tools, the training, the webinars and such which we’ve been doing successfully,” Lange said.

Panelist Ahmed Hosni, director of recovery at the Higher Education Center, said one area where they continue to make progress is naloxone awareness and supply.

“The idea that this is a bystander training and that students carrying naloxone isn’t necessarily because they’re using – it’s because they’re part of a greater community,” he said. “And when they’re in their internship, when they’re in their job, when they’re traveling the community, they know they have tools that can save a life.”

Gupta agreed. He said naloxone distribution and training should be treated like the placement of automated external defibrillators or CPR training. He said he was impressed to learn of the work on campus and hear from leaders running successful programs to support the challenges of addiction.

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