With 128 Americans dying every day from Opioid overdoses, it is urgent that we act now to increase our efforts and prevent further tragic loss of life. Collaboration is the key to preventing addiction and subsequent opioid overdose deaths.
Medical personnel, emergency departments, first responders, public safety officials, mental health and substance use treatment providers, community-based organizations, public health, and members of the community are all important components of the solution to this complex and fast-moving problem.
In 2019, David Michael Foundation was started to help prevent prescription opioid abuse relapse, overdose, and suicide. We hope to help end the Opioid Epidemic by providing resources and support for opioid misuse prevention, treatment, and recovery to both patients and their loved ones. By coordinating efforts between these actors, we can combat this epidemic of unnecessary deaths.
There are several proven ways to reduce exposure to opioids and potential dependence. In turn, these methods subsequently help prevent opioid abuse and overdose:
- Prescription drug monitoring programs
- State prescription drug laws
- Managing prescription access through insurance providers (i.e. prior authorization, quantity limits, and drug utilization review)
- Improving provider awareness of opioid abuse risk and opioid prescribing guidelines to facilitate conversations with patients about alternative pain treatment options
- Increased oversight of recommended prescribing practice implementation
- Patient education on the safe use, storage, and disposal of prescription opioids
- Improving community awareness about the risks of prescription opioids, the myths surrounding the negative stigma of addiction, and the cost of overdose on society
Opioids are a necessary form of pain management for many patients. However, opioids should not be a first line defense or routine therapy used to treat pain. Unfortunately, over-prescription of opioids as a cure all without consequence for pain has led to the present public health crisis.
The CDC developed and published the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain to provide recommendations for the prescribing of opioid pain medication for patients 18 and older in primary care settings. Recommendations focus on the use of opioids in treating chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3 months or past the time of normal tissue healing) outside of active cancer treatment, palliative care, and end-of-life care. However, many opioid prescriptions are administered outside of primary care where caution is not always exercised in prescribing to unknown patients with unquantified risk of misuse; post-surgical, post-emergency, by specialists.
Prescribers need increased education on how to thoroughly examine the risks and benefits of opioid use for each case and be sure to explore other options before administering a prescription. Greater effort is need by both the system and individual prescribers to optimize patient care and treat patients who have pain – whether physical pain, psychological pain or a combination of both – without contributing to opioid misuse and abuse.
- CDC Guidelines for Prescribing Opioids
- CDC Interactive Training Series for Healthcare Providers
- Training for Providers: Using PDMP to Promote Patient Safety in Opioid Prescribing and Dispensing
- Coordinating Clinical and Public Health Responses to Opioid Overdoses Treated in Emergency Departments
- CDC Webinar Series on Prescribing Habits
- Time for Honest Discussions About Naloxone
- Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing
The opioid epidemic is fueled by inadequate education about addiction and treatment. Increasing public knowledge about prescription opioid misuse and overdose is critical to communities making safe choices about opioids and supporting those who need help.
There is also a gap in public knowledge of addiction treatment that serves as a barrier to getting those who need help into a program. Despite the fact that effective treatments for opioid use disorder do exist, only about one in four people with this disorder received specialty treatment for illicit drug use in 2017.
Unfortunately, resources aren’t always well organized or easy to find. Please visit the links below to find out more about opioid addiction, abuse, overdose, and how to get help for yourself or someone you love.
- Partnership for Drug Free Kids: Medicine Abuse Project, Facts for Parents and Communities
- DHHS Help, Resources and Information on the National Opioids Crisis
- Understanding Opioids: From addiction to recovery, from Harvard Health
- Understanding Addiction with Findtreatment.gov
- Opioids and their Risks Explained
- How to Navigate the Addcition Treatment System
- Facts and Recommendations for Individuals and Families
- Facts and Recommendations for Communities
- Prescription Opioids: What You Need to Know
The negative social stigma surrounding addiction is another major obstacle perpetuating opioid abuse and overdose. Fortunately, society’s outdated view of addiction as a moral failing is slowly turning around. We are moving toward a more realistic, humane view of addiction as a complex disease, one that can be effectively addressed with compassion and evidence-based treatment strategies.
Additionally, 45% of people with a substance use disorder also have a mental disorder, yet only about half receive treatment for either disorder and only a small minority receive treatment for both. The stigma surrounding mental health has also made those with substance use disorders less likely to seek out help. By talking about the disease of addiction, educating others, and choosing words which do not further stigmatize both addiction and mental health disorders we can help remove or lower the barriers for someone getting help for themselves or others.
2020 Update: New concerns are mounting related to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic; many cities and states have noticed an uptick in overdose deaths since the beginning of quarantine and lockdowns as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Social isolation, unemployment and economic strain are all negatively contributing factors that exacerbate mental health issues and worsen the risk of prescription overdose. Communities should be aware of the increased risk and try to support those at risk in these difficult times.
MENTAL HEALTH RESOURCES