- The CDC states that the federal government is helping to combat this opioid crisis by:
- Providing educational training and resources to health care providers by developing prescribing guidelines for chronic pain and supporting the use of prescription drug monitoring programs.
- Increasing access to substance abuse treatment services through the Affordable Care Act.
- Expanding use of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
- Supporting the development and distribution of the life-saving drug naloxone to reduce prescription opioid painkiller and heroin overdose deaths.
- Supporting the research, development, and approval of pain medications that are less prone to abuse.
- Improving surveillance to better track trends, identify communities at risk, and target prevention strategies.
What else can be done?
While efforts are being made at the state and federal level to educate medical professionals on the opioid crisis and establish prescribing guidelines and treatment protocols, patient education and monitoring should receive equal attention.
To incentivize physicians:
1. CE credits should be offered for mandatory participation in opioid education programs.
2. Nurse practitioners should be responsible for patient education, adding billable hours to the practice.
3. Prescriptions should be limited to a 3 day supply with a follow up appointment to assess current status if the patient is requesting a prescription refill.
To empower patients to make the best personal health care decisions:
1. If accepting an opioid prescription to treat pain, patients should be required to receive opioid education by a nurse practitioner regarding the risk factors for addiction.
2. Patient education should include a review of personal and family history of addiction, mental health disorders, and any other risk factors that may exist.
3. Patients should be given all options for pain management including alternative therapeutic options.
And while Narcan is helping to save lives in NJ and across the US, it is not in the hands of all paramedics. Until this epidemic is under control, every police officer, EMT and paramedic should be required to carry Narcan, so more lives have a chance of being saved. Unfortunately, this was not the case for Nicholas, as the paramedics arrived empty handed, unable to reverse the effects of his overdose.