The American Medical Association’s Opioid Task Force recently made recommendations for reducing the effects of opioid misuse. How are Ohio clinicians doing when it comes to following these guidelines? Could these recommendations significantly change the opioid crisis in Ohio?
The Opioid Crisis in Ohio
Opioid are most commonly prescribed as painkillers for pain following surgery or for chronic pain. However, over the last two decades, the widespread prescribing of opioids has led to increased availability of these drugs. Since opioids lead to a feeling of deep relaxation and euphoria, patients who take them for pain are at risk for developing an opioid use disorder. Others in the home can also be exposed to these drugs, especially if there are drugs left over after the pain decreases. This increased availability of opioids has led to serious problems with substance misuse, and those who misuse pain pills sometimes go on to take illicit drugs like heroin.
Overdoses and deaths from opioid misuse have grown in Ohio in recent years. The death rate from opioid misuse has tripled since 2010. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Ohio is among the top five states with the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. In 2016, there were 3,613 opioid-related overdose deaths in Ohio. There are also more incidences of Hepatitis C and HIV from injection drug use.
Opioid misuse takes a serious social toll as well. Drug misuse has an impact on families, and it also affects the workplace. For families, drug misuse can lead to an increase in the number of children in foster care, as it has in Ohio. It has also led to an increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome, which occurs when an unborn baby is exposed to opioids in the womb.
New AMA Guidelines
According to the AMA, while there has been an increase in opioid prescriptions over the last 20 years, in the last five years doctors have become more aware of the opioid crisis. Between 2013 and 2017, the number of opioid prescriptions decreased by more than 55 million. This is a positive development, though there is still a long way to go before the opioid crisis is under control. Many people are also using illicit substances, such as heroin.
The AMA states that it is important for physicians to make informed decisions about pain relief for their patients and to focus on the safe storage and disposal of unused medications as well. This can ensure that these medications stay out of the reach of children. Physicians are also focusing on prescription drug monitoring programs. In 2014, there were under 500,000 people using these programs, and in 2017 that number had risen to over 1.5 million. This helps physicians track the use of drugs.
Naloxone has also become more common, and many physicians are prescribing this antidote. In 2017, naloxone prescriptions more than doubled to 8,000 prescriptions dispensed every week. This helps prevent patients from death when they overdose.
In addition to prescribing naloxone, 50,000 doctors are now able to provide in-office buprenorphine to help patients treat their opioid use disorder. This is a huge step in allowing those in crisis to start treatment right away. Insurers have also been asked to remove administrative barriers to those who receive buprenorphine so that people can start treatment immediately without needing to figure out the paperwork first.
Continuing Education for Health Care Providers
Health care providers are partially responsible for reducing the opioid epidemic. Their diligence in prescribing pain medication, suggesting alternatives to opioids and tracking patients’ access to pain medication can help reduce the likelihood that someone will develop an opioid addiction. What educational resources are available to physicians regarding opioid addiction?
- There is a resource section on the AMA website that is available to physicians, and practitioners are increasingly accessing this to discover new information about treatment options that are available to their patients.
- In Ohio, 2,000 health care providers completed the Smart RX program in 2017. This is a continuing medical education program provided by the Ohio State Medical Association.
Finding Solutions to the Opioid Crisis
Solutions to the opioid crisis begin with clinicians, but they also start with individuals making choices that benefit themselves and their families. When you are ready to move into addiction treatment, there are resources available to help you choose sobriety and treat your substance use disorder. These include:
- Programs of intensive inpatient and outpatient therapy that support you with counseling and group therapy, so that you can gain new strategies to manage your substance use disorder.
- Physical support in the form of medical care, so that you can move through the withdrawal period with fewer concerns about the physical challenges of this stage.
- A focus on mental health as well as physical health, so that you can work on the treatment for co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety. These disorders can lead to challenges with substance use, and substance use can also exacerbate these mental health disorders.
- Alternative therapies such as art therapy, equine therapy and recreation, so that you can find positive ways to be social and find new ways to enjoy sober living.
- Aftercare and sober living housing available, because it is important to have an ongoing community of support as you strive to maintain sober living.
Are you seeking addiction treatment programs? Embrace sobriety with the help of The Recovery Village Columbus. Medical professionals at the facility can help you move into addiction treatment and beyond.