Preventing Opioid Abuse

October 16, 2015 | Pamela Youngberg Dickson

Tim Gallagher, President of Astrup Drug, a regional chain of community and long-term care pharmacies, recently served on a panel discussion at the Pain Pill Problem Conference at the University of Minnesota along with other speakers that included Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer, U.S. Attorney Andrew Luger and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler, along with representatives from the D.E.A. and local law enforcement.

The Pain Pill Problem Conference brought together experts from the medical, public health, and law enforcement fields to look at the incidence and impact of opioid abuse and discuss potential solutions to the problem.

“Narcotic painkillers are being over-prescribed in Minnesota, leading to addiction, abuse, and serious consequences. In the last decade, overdose deaths have more than doubled. Painkillers now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined. We need to have a conversation as a society about how we can treat pain in ways that restores function and this conference is a step in the right direction,” said Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson.

Recognizing the magnitude of the problem is one thing; doing something about it is another. As gate-keepers between prescribers and patients, Gallagher believes pharmacists are in a unique position to make an impact. Here are a few ways to help:

Help health professionals to make the most informed prescribing decisions, by:

  • Teaching medical professionals how and when to prescribe opioids by establishing new opioid prescribing guidelines for the treatment of chronic pain;
  • Increasing investments in state-level prevention interventions, including PDMPs, to track opioid prescribing and support appropriate pain management.

Leverage your state’s PDMP programs. In the Minnesota, the Board of Pharmacy prescription monitoring tool collects massive amounts of data intended to assist physicians and pharmacists in coordinating patient care. The prescription trail of controlled substances also enables prescribers to identify patients who might be over-filling scripts for drugs like pain killers.

Develop an opioid disposal program. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 23,000 in the US died in 2013 from opioid overdose. Educate your patients about the dangers of leaving unused opioid prescriptions around the house or in the medicine cabinet.

Educate Physicians and Pharmacists to help increase the use of naloxone, by:

  • Supporting the development, review, and approval of new naloxone products and delivery options;
  • Promoting state use of Substance Abuse Block Grant funds to purchase naloxone;
  • Implementing the Prescription Drug Overdose grant program for states to purchase naloxone and train first responders on its use.

Finally, pharmacies should have policies and procedures in place for appropriate storage of controlled substances in the pharmacy, both to prevent internal diversion and minimize the potential for harm to employees should a pharmacy robbery occur.

Community Health IndependentPrevention

Pamela Youngberg Dickson

Before she came to Smart-Fill, Pamela developed marketing strategy and content for a range of technology start-ups and large-cap enterprises. Outside the office, she's into gardening, renaissance history, the Big Ten, and exploring the great outdoors.