The Opioid Crisis: An Update

Opioids, Venincasa Dental

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that there were a record number of American opioid deaths (47,600) in 2017 (Newman, Jan 28, 2019).

Per the CDC, the ten hardest-hit states of opioid deaths from 2013-2017, in order, were New Mexico, Maine, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, New Hampshire, and the hardest hit state of West Virginia (Newman, Jan 28, 2019).

To create a plan for reversing this trend, experts from numerous hospitals met at the U.S. News & World Report “Healthcare of Tomorrow Conference” in Washington, D.C., on November 18, 2019. These hospitals and the American Hospital Association all realized there was a crisis that needed to be addressed, and they realized their need to cooperate to help create solutions nationwide (Newman, Nov 19, 2019).

From this conference, various existing and proposed programs were discussed. Health care providers and hospitals are changing their approaches to treating pain and addiction, and are addressing addiction as a disease rather than as a personal failing (Newman, Nov 19, 2019). They agreed that the mindsets of doctors and communities need to change as well, since addiction is a “chronic, relapsing, and remitting disease” (Newman, Nov 19, 2019).

As part of the solution to this crisis, providers partnering with medical centers can integrate drug treatment into their practices (Newman, Nov 19, 2019). Also, practice models can be created within primary care medical offices and within in-patient units to coordinate with specialists who provide the necessary treatment for these patients (Newman, Nov 19, 2019). Further, emergency departments within hospitals can create programs to assist opioid-dependent patients (Newman, Nov 19, 2019). In addition, states, hospitals, and doctors need to change their prescription habits for acute and chronic pain, and for monitoring patients who are receiving chronic opioid therapy, which should be based on guidelines issued by the CDC (Newman, Nov 19, 2019).

Pharmacists also have a role to play in changing the direction of this opioid crisis. For example, currently, some pharmacists use technology and advanced data analytics to reach customers and patients, and often offer services that are complementary, or in place of, the local physician (Smart, 2019). Secondly, some pharmacies, like CVS, limit first-time opioid prescriptions to a 7-day supply, which “has sharply curtailed opioid usage” (Smart, 2019).

Other medical companies have also participated in curbing this crisis. Some have taken steps to expand access to Naloxone, a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid overdoses. Some companies have also increased training and education programs, and have supported local addiction and recovery centers through community grants (Smart, 2019). Further, other companies help doctors transition to “value-based payments where they are paid for preventative care rather than on procedures or volumes” (Smart, 2019).

I have also seen how the Texas State Board of Dental Examiners has increased education of and regulation on dentists concerning their knowledge of opioids and their prescribing of them.

For sure, the crisis is real, and medical entities are responding. May we all be cognizant of this crisis, and help those who are in need. The solution involves all of us.

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Newman, Katelyn. “How Hospitals Are Battling the Opioid Epidemic.” U. S. News and World Report (Nov 19, 2019). Accessed Dec 4, 2019.

Newman, Katelyn. “The 10 States with the Biggest Opioid Problem.” U. S. News and World Report (Jan 28, 2019). Accessed Dec 4, 2019.

Smart, Tim. “The Evolution from Health Care to Health Services.” U. S. News and World Report (Nov 17, 2019). Accessed Dec 4, 2019.

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