Abt Associates has taken bold action to help prevent opioid misuse and overdose. Our work has helped address the supply of and demand for illegal drugs and the misuse of legal substances for federal, state and local agencies, as well as other key stakeholders. We’ve pioneered research strategies to estimate the worldwide supply of illegal drugs, led research on drug-trafficking organizations, and evaluated the effectiveness of substance use disorder treatment programs. Abt has also developed and tested tools to improve opioid prescribing. Our team of multidisciplinary experts brings critical insight and approaches to help access the hard-to-reach and at-risk substance-using populations.

Together, our research, policy analysis, program implementation, technical support and communication activities inform real-world practices to ensure the greatest positive impacts on our communities.


Abt has a long history designing and implementing projects aimed at understanding the breadth of the opioid epidemic, as well as innovations and solutions. Highlights include:

  • Conducting research on the extent of prescription drug misuse and doctor shopping.
  • Informing more effective prescribing practices by supporting the development of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain and implementation in practice.
  • Training doctors and nurses about buprenorphine to educate the medical community about its use in medication-assisted treatment.
  • Teaching the general public, providers, employers, and those in recovery about the rights of those in medication-assisted treatment.
  • Developing and evaluating innovative health information technology tools to support people in treatment and recovery from opioid use disorders.
  • Serving as thought leaders to local, federal and internal stakeholders on evidence-based drug policies.

What can Abt do?

  • Develop a strategic plan for addressing the opioid epidemic for states, payers and other audiences

    Abt developed a strategic plan for the Massachusetts’ Health Policy Commission and has broad understanding of the opioid prevention and treatment continuum.

  • Provide guidance on how to improve opioid prescribing and formulary management approaches

    Abt developed guidance for clinicians on best practices for opioid prescribing and has evaluated formulary management approaches.

  • Evaluate and implement prevention and treatment programs

    Abt has extensive experience conducting evaluations across the continuum of substance abuse prevention and treatment. Abt is a leader in developing and evaluating resources for clinicians to improve opioid prescribing guidelines and prescription monitoring programs, among others.

  • Support and evaluate implementation of best practices in health care, treatment centers, criminal justice and communities

    Abt has supported and evaluated the implementation of CDC guideline recommendations in health systems.

  • Conduct research and data analysis

    Abt has extensive experience conducting research and data analysis. Abt also recently developed measures to monitor health systems’ prescribing and patient care practices.

  • Develop measures and monitor trends in opioid misuse, abuse and overdose

    Abt has developed a set of measures for monitoring the implementation of the CDC guideline recommendations in clinical practice. We also developed and operated the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program.

  • Develop evidence-based resources for various target audiences, including patients, clinicians, systems, and programs

    Abt led several projects for the CDC and SAMHSA developing evidence-based resources for clinicians, health systems, and treatment programs.

  • Develop communications materials and campaigns for various target audiences

    Abt supported the development of the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health (SGR-ADH). This report discusses the growing relationship between prescription drug misuse and heroin use, and provides evidence-based strategies for addressing the growing opioid epidemic.

  • Work to understand how polydrug use impacts opioid use and associated health conditions

    Abt has evaluated a SAMHSA-HIV program by looking at opioid misuse as a precursor, along with HEP-C.

  • Develop and disseminate the use of health IT tools to facilitate treatment and support recovery

    Abt assisted with the development of APPS for first responders to locate treatment and to aid individuals in reentering the community after incarceration to find care for opioid use disorders.

  • Support successful re-entry of employees affected by substance use disorders into the workforce

    Abt is researching workforce programs that aim to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults who struggle with addiction and substance use disorders, including opioids.

  • Build the evidence base

    Abt is a global leader in research, monitoring and evaluation. Harnessing rigorous methodologies—ranging from randomized experiments and rapid cycle evaluations to performance monitoring and in-depth qualitative analysis—we enable decision makers to answer hard questions and solve challenging problems. We know how to test what works, discover why it works, and provide timely evidence-based recommendations.

Relevant Expertise

  • Prevention and EducationAbt has been at the forefront of educating primary care practitioners about buprenorphine. Shortly after the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA’s) approval of buprenorphine for the treatment of opioid use disorders in 2002, Abt supported SAMHSA in a national education program aimed at informing physicians about the availability of buprenorphine as a treatment option for opioid addiction. This contract also supported the development and production of Buprenorphine: A Guide for Nurses, which SAMHSA published in a technical assistance paper.
  • Research and EvaluationThrough a Department of Justice contract, Abt led an early assessment of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to explore the feasibility of conducting a systematic evaluation of their effectiveness. Building on our knowledge of PDMPs, Abt conducted several evaluations of the effectiveness of these programs, including assessing their effects on the prescribing of opioid analgesics and other pain medications in ambulatory care settings in twenty-four states.
  • Policy FormulationTo support safe prescribing and to reduce adverse consequences of opioid use, CDC contracted with Abt to assist with researching and developing the opioid prescribing guideline for chronic pain. CDC issued the final guideline in March 2016.
  • Health Care Systems DevelopmentAbt collaborated with the CDC on the national implementation and dissemination of CDC’s opioid-prescribing guidelines into primary care practices. For this effort, we collaborated with a diverse set of organizations across public and private sectors along with academic institutions including Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, University of Washington, and Change Management Consultants. At the state level, the Massachusetts Health Policy Commission (HPC) commissioned a report from Abt examining opioid addiction in the Commonwealth. The report defined a set of system specifications, including considerations of financing and return on investment, provider capabilities, quality metrics, and workforce development, followed by a gap analysis between these system characteristics and current capabilities.
  • Communications and DisseminationAbt supported the development of the first-ever Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health. This report discusses the growing relationship between prescription drug misuse and heroin use, and provides evidence-based strategies for addressing the growing opioid epidemic.

Contact Us

Douglas McDonald, Ph.D.
Principal Associate/Scientist
Cambridge, MA
(617) 349-2737

Sarah Shoemaker, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
Principal Associate/Scientist
Cambridge, MA
(617) 349-2472

Opioid Use & Misuse

Abt Associates is an engine for social impact, harnessing the power of data and grounded insight to bring people from vulnerability to security worldwide.  We think boldly to deliver solutions that cross disciplines, methods, and geographies. Abt provides impact through research, evaluation, and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development.