Ways You Can Help Fight the Opioid Crisis
The opioid epidemic that is sweeping the country is affecting everyone. There are problems in rural and urban areas. Abuse is rampant in both low and high-income neighborhoods. Addictions to painkillers that open the door to serious drug abuse may begin with prescribed medication. So as a gatekeeper to opioid painkillers, how can pharmacists help in the fight against this fatal epidemic that has devastated so many lives?
Providing Thorough Counseling when Dispensing
Patients who have severe pain that requires the use of an opioid medication for treatment often aren’t made aware of the dangers of the medication that they will be taking. Often, they forego counseling and take the maximum dosage allowed, not realizing that they are putting themselves at risk of addiction. Pharmacists should make a point to counsel every patient who is receiving an opioid painkiller, especially if they are coming back for multiple refills over an extended period of time.
Sharing Alternative Approaches to Pain Relief
Talk with your customers about their pain, and offer alternative suggestions for pain relief to help them cut back on the use of opioids for treatment. Many times, patients will simply take the prescribed pain medication even when their pain isn’t the most severe and an over-the-counter option would work just as well to control it. Depending on the source of the pain, often it is a better choice to try alternatives to prescription medication and use the prescription drugs as a last resort when pain won’t abate otherwise. Do not make the mistake of steering established chronic pain patients away from the use of opioid medications they’ve used for years, though. Chances are, they have tried all other treatment options before their doctors established that opioids were the only thing that worked.
Careful Review of Drug Monitoring Databases
Many states have a searchable database that tracks and monitors the active prescriptions for opioid and other highly addictive prescription drugs. It is important to the safety of patients to check this database carefully for any red flags with the prescription you are about to fill. This may allow you to note an individual who is drug-seeking with various different healthcare providers and open the door to getting necessary addiction treatment for that individual.
Continuing Education About Pain Control and Drug Abuse
Take the time to complete continuing education courses and attend conferences that will help you to counsel your customers when it comes to pain control and drug abuse. Often, they will come to you with questions or concerns or you may be the first to notice dangerous behavior. When you are better informed about these issues and up to date on the latest treatments and pain management options, you will be able to use that knowledge to help deter individual incidents of drug abuse and addiction.
The opioid epidemic is so widespread throughout the United States, it will take years of hard work to defeat. However, when pharmacists play their role in combating the epidemic, it will help to reduce the number of new addicts and could help others find their way into treatment. Though the battle against opioid addiction is a tough one, when all levels of healthcare providers work together, we can make a strong stand against it.