Preparing Your Community Health Center for the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid crisis is not going away anytime soon. Addiction rates continue to rise across the country, often spurred by legally regulated painkillers. This CDC report indicates that over 183,000 people have died from opioid overdose between 1999 and 2015. This drug addiction, no longer improperly relegated to street kids and minorities, is now affecting a growing population of white, middle-aged persons in the middle-upper class bracket.

This epidemic is becoming increasingly visible to the public and recently was declared a public health emergency. This newfound visibility has led to the proposal of new bills and regulations that will affect prescribing doctors and clinicians. Here are some important ideas to consider.

Opioid Forms
Today's abused opiates come in many forms and many different strengths. Specific drugs such as fentanyl can cause an overdose in even minor amounts. These newer drugs can be found as tablets, capsules or liquids and can be purchased at local pharmacies instead of illegal markets or street deals.

Prescription Restrictions
Many states are proposing prescription restrictions to minimize the proliferation of these drugs. Instead of allowing doctors to prescribe a 30-day supply after surgery, North Carolina lawmakers have proposed limiting these prescriptions to only 7 days. Other states also have pending legislation, including moves to make specific high-concentration opioids completely illegal, as well as limiting access based on patient history.

Non-Opioid Alternatives
Based on both prescriptions restrictions and also patient request, the quest for non-opioid based painkillers has become far more common. Many physicians are turning to acetaminophen- and ibuprofen-based alternatives, as well as chronic pain management tools and topical pain relief options. Muscle relaxants and anticonvulsants have also shown increased use in pain relief applications, as have many natural substances like capsaicin.

Cannabis
While widely known as a street drug for getting "high," cannabis, or marijuana, compounds like THC and CBD have become increasingly popular in both acute and chronic pain management. As marijuana continues to increase in both recreational and medicinal legalization across the United States, it is still illegal at a federal level. This quasi-legal territory can be difficult for a prescribing doctor to navigate, which is why knowledge of legal synthetics like Marinol may be increasingly valuable for physicians as an alternative for requesting patients.

It's important to prepare your community health center for impending opioid legislation. You'll likely have state or local laws that limit your ability to prescribe pain medication. Make sure you understand the specific law for your area. Additionally, you'll need pain management alternatives. Educate yourself and your staff of these non-opioid alternatives to help provide the best available care.

Concordance Healthcare Solutions is proud to be able to provide a wide array of products to support the needs of our community health center partners.

Please note that this material is presented for informational purposes only and does not constitute an endorsement of any specific pain management approaches by Concordance Healthcare Solutions.

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