Study Recommends Approaches to Curbing The Opioid Epidemic Without Forgoing Pain Management
A recent study conducted by researchers at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has developed an all-encompassing response to the opioid epidemic – a crisis that took nearly 20 years to evolve. Indeed, according to the study, it could also take years of “sustained and coordinated effort” to resolve.
The authors believe the opioid epidemic has been wrought by the inability to effectively address two public health issues – the reduction of problems connected to pain management, and prevention of harm associated with opioid use.
The research teams described four main approaches designed to curb the opioid epidemic and prevent it from getting even worse: (1) influence prescribing methods, (2) decrease the illicit supply of painkillers, (3) minimize the need for opioids, and (4) reduce harm overall.
Reduction in the opioid supply can be accomplished via state and local efforts to better manage its use and decrease access.
Also, programs that take back and dispose of unused prescription drugs should be expanded to keep expired and extraneous pills out of the hands of those without prescriptions.
The researchers also believe that current prescribing practices should be altered and that more non-opioid treatments should be offered.
Additionally, current guidelines could be more effectively implemented with improved research and use of an evidence-based nationwide standard to opioid prescribing as well as prescription drug monitoring programs.
They also posit that a reduction in demand can be achieved through changes in provider training and that there is an education deficit in the general public about the risks and benefits of opioid use and the effectiveness of non-opioid therapy.
Harm reduction can be achieved with the use of naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. They stated that health providers can help prevent overdoses by educating patients and offering naloxone when painkillers are prescribed. They also recommend improving access to naloxone by lifting current policies that serve as barriers.
From the study:
“Access to evidence-based treatment for OUD should be substantially and immediately increased as a public health priority. Action by the nation’s political and public health leadership is also needed to reduce new cases of prescription opioid-induced OUD. Scientifically grounded policies and clinical practices to promote responsible opioid prescribing are needed, along with research to identify and develop nonaddictive alternatives to opioids for treatment of pain.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology