Joel Earlywine, a Master of Science student at the School of Public Health, has received the Best Research Abstract Award from the Association for Multidisciplinary Education and Research in Substance Use and Addiction (AMERSA). Earlywine presented his abstract during an oral plenary session at the 43rd annual AMERSA Conference, held at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Boston on November 9.
The abstract, titled “Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and Changes in Adolescent Injection Drug Use: A Difference-in-Differences Analysis,” is based on a study that Earlywine conducted with Julia Raifman, assistant professor of health law, policy & management.
Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) assist clinicians in monitoring prescriptions for patients, but “only about 30 to 40 percent of clinicians are using the programs because they are voluntary,” says Earlywine, who is studying Health Services & Systems Research at SPH. However, some states have implemented PDMP mandates, which require clinicians to use the programs when prescribing drugs to patients. “Although these mandates have proven to reduce prescription opioid-related overdose rates,” he says, “some research suggests that adults with opioid use disorder may be transitioning to cheaper and more potent opioids, like heroin and fentanyl, which are commonly injected, since prescription opioids are harder to obtain.”
Amidst all of the current research around PDMPs, Earlywine says youth, particularly adolescents, have received very little attention. “Our study aims to better understand how these PDMPs are affecting this age group because prescription opioid misuse commonly begins in adolescence,” he says.
In addition to adolescent and young adult substance use, Earlywine’s research interests are in mental health and related health policies. He hopes to close the gaps that exist on the effects of these policies on youth.
“I want my research to inform health policy to put a heavier focus on adolescents and young adults,” says Earlywine, who credits Raifman’s “invaluable mentorship” and guidance on his future in the field. “If we are careful when we implement policies and really consider how they may or may not affect these age groups, these policies can have long-running, positive effects.”