Combatting the Opioid Epidemic

In an alarming move, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, sent a direct plea to health care professionals to end the opioid epidemic. Since 1999, the number of opioids prescribed and the amounts of opioid deaths have nearly quadrupled. Murthy’s plea echoes the opinions of many who have been affected by opioid addiction. Prescription drugs have become more deadly than the majority of illegal drugs, and it’s time to tackle the subject.

Turn the Tide

Murthy and many opioid epidemic awareness advocates have created a campaign called “Turn the Tide” which is focused on combatting the rising opioid epidemic. The site offers a variety of treatment options as well as advice for healthcare professionals. There were enough prescriptions written last year for every single American to have a bottle of pills, and that’s just in one year. Government officials, as well as leading healthcare professionals, are acknowledging the opioid epidemic as they look to combat the rapidly growing issue.

Opioid Epidemic Origins

This drug epidemic is unique because the origin is actually from healthcare providers. Unlike hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, opioids can be easily obtained with a written prescription from a physician. Battling the epidemic starts at the source, and many healthcare professionals are urging others to change the way they diagnose and prescribe painkillers to patients. In his letter, Murthy urges, “I know solving this problem will not be easy. We often struggle to balance reducing our patients’ pain with increasing their risk of opioid addiction. But, as clinicians, we have the unique power to help end this epidemic. As cynical as times may seem, the public still looks to our profession for hope during difficult moments. This is one of those times.” This delicate balancing act is tough for many healthcare professionals, but necessary.

What Can You Do?

As a travel nurse, you can’t actually write prescriptions, but, you can still give physicians your professional opinion as well as direct the patient on how to safely manage the pain medication. Many patients abuse the medication by accident, including taking more than the prescribed amount or taking them when they no longer need them. Nursing can be stressful but it’s important to remember the impact you can have on so many lives, every day.

Although you can’t prevent everything, it’s important to inform patients about the pitfalls of opioid addiction. Nurses play a huge role in combatting the opioid epidemic, and it’s up to you to advise patients to reduce the risk of addiction.

Murthy closed his letter by stating, “Years from now, I want us to look back and know that, in the face of a crisis that threatened our nation, it was our profession that stepped up and led the way. I know we can succeed because health care is more than an occupation to us. It is a calling rooted in empathy, science, and service to humanity. These values unite us. They remain our greatest strength.”

Author: Troy Diffenderfer

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