Data Sources and Data-Linking Strategies to Support Research to Address the Opioid Crisis

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has devised Strategic Priorities for addressing the opioid crisis. This report, created by the RAND Corporation, summarizes the available secondary data sources related to the HHS Strategic Priorities. Many of the data sources described are not specific to criminal justice. In fact, one of the key observations of the authors is that criminal justice data should be incorporated into public health research.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) developed five Strategic Priorities for addressing the opioid crisis: 1) better practices for pain management; 2) better addiction prevention, treatment and recovery services; 3) better targeting of overdose-reversing drugs; 4) better data; and 5) better research. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation of HHS awarded a contract to the RAND Corporation to conduct a study to assess the types of opioid related data sources and data linkage efforts that are being or could be used to support these Strategic Priorities. In order to accomplish these goals, RAND conducted interviews with 16 expert stakeholders and an environmental scan of the literature.

This report summarizes the Strategic Priorities, describes existing research, categorizes the available data sources, discusses common approaches to linking or merging multiple data sources, and describes stakeholder opinions on research needs and how/if secondary data can be used to address those needs. Many charts identifying potential data sources and commonly used measures as well as their strengths and weaknesses are included. Key challenges in studying the opioid crisis and possible solutions are also identified.


Smart, R., Kase, C.A., Meyer, A., & Stein, B.D. (2018). Data sources and data-linking strategies to support research to address the opioid crisis. Final report. Retrieved from

For more information, please contact: Bradley Stein, e-mail: [email protected]