Weapons in the Battle Against Opioid Abuse

North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) President Robert E. Schaaf, MD, FACR, recently had an editorial piece published in the Raleigh News & Observer titled “The Public Health Issue of Our Time: Prescription Drug Abuse.” Read it here.

As this issue becomes increasingly part of public discourse, organized medicine is responding with new educational resources for physicians to help you do your part. Here is an update from the AMA on what is available to you:

The Providers’ Clinical Support System for Opioid Therapies (PCSS-O), a collaborative of national health care organizations that includes the AMA, develops free, evidence-based educational opioid use resources for physicians. Physicians can use the PCSS-O’s online modules and webinars for information they can put to use in their daily practice.

Here are four resources from the PCSS-O, some of which offer continuing medical education credit in the form of AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™:

  1. Physicians in primary care can be the first line of assistance for patients who misuse opioids. A webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Sept. 1 will explain how physicians can use the “SBIRT” method—screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment—to reduce misuse.
  2. Increased use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) can help physicians identify patients at risk for opioid misuse. A webinar from noon to 1 p.m. on Sept. 2 will give physicians the basics on PDMPs and how to maximize their benefit.
  3. Physicians who treat patients with low back pain may benefit from a module on whether to use opioids to treat these patients. The module addresses psychosocial contributors to pain and recognizes that opioids are not first-line treatment for low back pain and may not be appropriate for many patients.
  4. Older adults represent an increasing proportion of individuals who misuse drugs. One module can help physicians make an overall plan for pain assessment and management in older adults.

Physicians interested in medication-assisted treatment also can register for an upcoming webinar from the Providers’ Clinical Support System for Medication Assisted Treatment. The webinar, to be held from 3 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 3, will address the impact substance use has on families and how physicians can engage families to improve the patient’s health.

Why physicians are crucial to stopping the epidemic

The AMA has convened a task force with the American Osteopathic Association, the American Dental Association, and more than 20 state and specialty medical associations to work collaboratively to address the opioid public health epidemic by identifying best practices and implementing them across the country.

The group identified three initial steps physicians can take now to help their patient populations:

  • Register and use state-based prescription drug monitoring programs.[This is the topic of Dr. Schaaf’s editorial] Register for and consult these databases to identify patients at risk for opioid misuse and help patients with substance use disorders get appropriate treatment.
  • Discuss with patients available treatment options.When caring for patients with pain, understand the best possible course for managing that pain with the tools available.
  • Take advantage of educational opportunities. Visit the AMA’s Opioid Abuse Prevention Web pages to access resources to enhance your education, and promote comprehensive, appropriate pain treatment while safeguarding against opioid overdose.

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