The next frontier of combating drug addiction in America

Cole Korponay*

Edited by Paige Omura and Grant A. Knappe

Article | Aug. 29 2022

DOI: 10.38105/spr.nei10sp0hh/


  • An evolving understanding of the relationship between drugs and the brain is contributing to a paradigm shift in drug policy, defined by measures to help keep individuals with addiction alive as the long path toward recovery takes course
  • Significant harm-reduction potential exists in increasing access to medication assisted treatment (MAT) – the most effective approach for managing opioid use disorder, but which less than 20% of affected individuals in the U.S. receive
  • Developments in the neuroscience of targeted brain stimulation and brain-based risk prediction represent novel treatment and prevention strategies on the near-horizon

Article Summary

While pre-COVID-19 data indicated that the massive public health effort to fight the opioid epidemic was beginning to gain ground, the record-breaking surge of overdose deaths during the pandemic revealed that the underlying state of our addiction prevention and care system remains insufficient. This reality has demanded a rethinking of approaches – both policy-based and scientific – to accelerate the reversal of the crisis. Evolving harm reduction policies based in a greater appreciation for the neuroscience of addiction represent a positive shift in our approach to addressing addiction. Yet, there is still much opportunity for improvement, especially in expanding the use of medication assisted treatment (MAT) to treat opioid addiction. Moreover, emerging neuroscience research may offer new paths to treatment and prevention. Collectively, these efforts have the potential to significantly tip the balance in the battle against drug addiction in America.


Open Access


This MIT Science Policy Review article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit by/4.0/.

Cole Korponay

Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA