The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that 80 percent of all Americans had contact with a healthcare clinician or provider in the past year. With the opioid epidemic spiraling out of control, these numbers present unprecedented opportunities for everyone in the health community to get involved in addressing this problem.
This article discusses the role of physicians, pharmacists, and drug manufacturers in preventing misuse and abuse of drugs, which can quickly lead to addiction. If misuse is evident, how can physicians play a key role in referring patients to addiction treatment facilities?
Addiction Treatment Across the Healthcare Spectrum
Today’s modern healthcare delivery systems include a dispersed network of inpatient and outpatient providers including addiction treatment specialists. At each point in this continuum, from the primary care provider to the ER clinician, these professionals should remain alert for signs of drug addiction and use every opportunity to help patients exhibiting those signs. Here are five examples:
- Doctors should screen for the potential abuse of all drugs, including prescription medications. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that two million Americans have a prescription drug addiction. Physicians should arm themselves with the latest clinical information on the signs of addiction to prescription drugs.
- Physicians should also be aware of their own prescribing behaviors that could lead to the potential for abuse of powerfully addictive opioid pain relievers, which have led to the deaths of thousands of Americans each year. Health systems can support physician efforts by providing clinical training on opioid alternatives for pain management.
- Two years ago, National Public Radio (NPR) reported on a study that showed the impact of immediate treatment for drug abuse in the ER. The study showed ER teams that provided counseling, medication, and a referral to a treatment center when a drug-addicted patient presented in the ER had a much higher efficacy rate.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that pharmacists actually serve as the first line of defense in the fight against addiction. These professionals and their employers can participate in prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs). These digital databases help track the dispensing of controlled substances across a state. It is a helpful tool for pharmacists seeking new ways to spot drug-seeking behaviors.
- Pharmaceutical companies can work to develop alternatives to highly addictive drugs. They can also develop partnerships with hospitals to develop educational materials so post-surgery patients and their doctors can understand the risks of such drugs. The Advisory Board reports that the multi-state Catholic system Trinity Health recently partnered with Pacira Pharmaceuticals to help identify patient populations that could benefit from a reduction in opioid prescriptions as well as develop educational materials on opioid alternatives.
Together, we can win this fight.
The point is that every provider across the healthcare spectrum has skin in the game when it comes to addiction treatment. With the current costs of the opioid epidemic at more than $30 billion annually in the United States and the loss of life at an all-time high, it is more than time for all providers across the healthcare continuum to educate themselves and act to address the crisis.
Are you a healthcare professional looking to do your part to help battle addiction? Contact us to find out more about referring patients to our facilities.