Using community engagement to implement evidence-based practices for opioid use disorder: A data-driven paradigm & systems science approach

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2021 May 1:222:108675. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108675. Epub 2021 Mar 18.


Community-driven responses are essential to ensure the adoption, reach and sustainability of evidence-based practices (EBPs) to prevent new cases of opioid use disorder (OUD) and reduce fatal and non-fatal overdoses. Most organizational approaches for selecting and implementing EBPs remain top-down and individually oriented without community engagement (CE). Moreover, few CE approaches have leveraged systems science to integrate community resources, values and priorities. This paper provides a novel CE paradigm that utilizes a data-driven and systems science approach; describes the composition, functions, and roles of researchers in CE; discusses unique ethical considerations that are particularly salient to CE research; and provides a description of how systems science and data-driven approaches to CE may be employed to select a range of EBPs that collectively address community needs. Finally, we conclude with scientific recommendations for the use of CE in research. Greater investment in CE research is needed to ensure contextual, equitable, and sustainable access to EBPs, such as medications for OUD (MOUD) in communities heavily impacted by the opioid epidemic. A data-driven approach to CE research guided by systems science has the potential to ensure adequate saturation and sustainability of EBPs that could significantly reduce opioid overdose and health inequities across the US.

Keywords: Community engagement; Community-based participatory research; Evidence-based practice; Implementation; Opioid; Systems science.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Overdose* / drug therapy
  • Drug Overdose* / prevention & control
  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Humans
  • Opiate Overdose*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / epidemiology


  • Analgesics, Opioid