May 1, 2018
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While it is clear that more action must be taken to address the problem, some states already have taken steps to respond to the epidemic in a coordinated way.
During a recent town hall, the surgeon general stressed the importance of recognizing that substance use disorder is a chronic disease that must be treated with the same skill, compassion, and urgency that clinicians use to treat other chronic health conditions.
A pilot group of 10 EDs in Colorado has shown impressive reductions in opioid prescribing by encouraging the use of alternatives to opioids (ALTO) in the care of five key pain pathways. Between June and November 2017, the pilot sites reduced the use of opioids by 36% when compared to the same six-month period in 2016. The Colorado Hospital Association, which championed the initiative, is moving to expand the ALTO approach used in the pilot to other hospitals in the state.
It’s ironic that even while the country is confronting a dangerous opioid epidemic, providers report that they are having trouble getting their hands on the powerful pain killers — a situation that is dangerous as well. The shortage, which primarily involves injectable opioid painkillers, is reportedly caused by drug manufacturing difficulties as well as the government’s efforts to address addiction by clamping down on drug production. However, the problem is resulting in adverse consequences for clinicians and patients.