Fighting the Opioid Epidemic Through Awareness and Education

Opioid abuse is a dangerous worldwide epidemic that continues to grow. According to the World Drug Report 2017, about 29.5 million people—or 0.6 percent of the global adult population—suffered from drug use disorders in 2015. Opioids were the most harmful drug type during that period, accounting for 70 percent of the negative health impact associated with drug use disorders.

But the epidemic, which has cost healthcare systems millions, has made its deepest inroads in the U.S. More than 115 Americans die daily after overdosing on opioids. Meanwhile, more than 11 million people in the U.S. misused prescription opioids in 2016, says the New England Journal of Medicine.

The U.S. government now considers the opioid crisis a public health emergency.

No Silver Bullet Exists

No silver bullet exists to stop the opioid epidemic. However, health and wellness organizations and government agencies have focused their efforts at awareness and education as part of the solution.

In fact, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse made awareness and education its top recommendation in a guide developed for the federal government on preventing opioid misuse and addiction.

The Center’s guide provides the government with a set of concrete actions it can take to make a measurable impact on the epidemic. The Center based these recommendations on years of work in this area and on the work of other organizations with a deep interest in taming the epidemic.

Stemming the Tide of Abuse

To help stem the tide of abuse, WiserTogether added a Key Messaging module to its Return to Health online platform. The capability is a critical enhancement to the healthcare solution. It includes risk warnings on any recommended plan that contains opioids as a treatment option and makes available educational materials about opioid abuse to its users.

WiserTogether’s decision to focus Key Messaging’s first use of opioids is in direct response to the opioid crisis in the United States and the increasing use of opioids as painkillers.

With Key Messaging, the goal is to facilitate awareness of the risks of opioids as a treatment option and encourage patients to discuss the risks and benefits with their care providers.

Combating Addiction with Action

In adding Key Messaging, WiserTogether joins a growing movement throughout the United States fighting the opioid epidemic through education, awareness, and action.

As key players in the movement, U.S. healthcare organizations and government agencies are making an impact by introducing special programs aimed directly at opioid addiction.

Below are four of the programs that aim to address the opioid epidemic:

  • Overdose Lifeline, an Indiana-based nonprofit, offers the “This is (Not) About Drugs” program for students. This one-of-a-kind educational program addresses the opioid health crisis specifically. The program has 150+ delivery partners and has reached 24,000 students in Indiana and 15 other states.
  • South Central PA Opioid Awareness Coalition offers a united front in the war against opioid and heroin abuse. It brings together health systems; hospitals and medical centers; dental and behavioral health providers; pharmacists; and healthcare professional associations to fight the opioid epidemic together.
  • In 2016, Cigna committed to reducing opioid abuse among its customers by 25 percent within three years. It has numerous initiatives underway to identify and help drive solutions to the opioid epidemic. Cigna also supports adoption of the National Pain Management Strategy and the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Opioid Prescribing Guidelines.
  • Christiana Care Health System, Delaware, offers Project Engage —an early intervention and referral program. It helps hospital patients struggling with substance abuse including opioid misuse. Of the approximately 1,500 patients with substance use disorder offered help through the program, about 30% accepted treatment. Virtually no patients accepted help before Project Engage.

These programs are helping patients with drug addictions and dramatically cutting healthcare costs. An analysis of Project Engage data, for example, shows an average annual savings of about $6,000 per patient subsequent to their enrollment in the program.

The Final Word

The opioid crisis isn’t a public health nuisance; it’s a dangerous full-blown epidemic that doesn’t discriminate. It can affect people from all walks of life and any age.

To help stem the tide of abuse, WiseTogether added the Key Messaging module to its Return to Health platform, which provides information and guidance to patients and helps cut healthcare costs. Key Messaging empowers people to make the best treatment choices for their needs.

In adding Key Messaging, WiseTogether joins a growing nationwide movement looking to address opioid addiction through awareness, education, and action.

The movement educates people on the dangers of opioid abuse, lets patients know that a serious addiction can start with a simple prescription, and provides help to those suffering from drug addiction.

Let us know what you think.

Thank you,

Max Kahn