Understanding the Opioid Epidemic.

On October 26, 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declared a nationwide public health emergency (PHE) to address the opioid crisis. At that time, data from the CDC showed that more than 140 Americans were dying from overdose every single day, with 91 of those deaths stemming from opioid use. In its statement about the PHE, HHS cited data from 2015 that showed an estimated 52,404 people died from drug overdose in the U.S that year. Unfortunately, that is less than half the number of overdose deaths estimated in 2021.

The growing opioid epidemic and related increase in OUD have been a catalyst for this rise in overdose deaths. In 2020, opioids were involved in 68,630 overdose deaths — 74.8% of all drug overdose deaths. While prescription opioids and heroin were the most prevalent causes of overdose in 1999 and 2010 respectively, the most recent spike in overdose deaths has been attributed to synthetic opioids, such as illicitly manufactured fentanyl. To ensure NPs are equipped with the latest evidence-based resources and continuing education (CE) related to OUD, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners® (AANP) has compiled informative tools and CE activities to help you diagnose and treat patients in your community.

Supporting Those Affected by SUD

All SUDs impact an individual’s physical wellness and mental health, and the impact of these disorders extends to the partners, families and communities of those individuals with an SUD. However, the stigma surrounding SUD often keeps those in need of treatment from seeking the help they need. To reduce stigma and boost patient access to SUD care, it’s important to increase awareness of SUD as a disease that can happen to anyone.

As an NP, you can make a positive difference by reminding your patients and community members that help is within reach and informing them of services, such as the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline, that offer confidential, free and round-the-clock information for individuals with SUD or other mental health challenges and their family members. In 2020, Congress also designated the new dialing code 988 to be operated through the existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for individuals who are struggling or in crisis. Prepare to eliminate overdose stigma in your community by reviewing the health care provider tools, training and technical assistance offered by SAMHSA, and continue to improve mental health outcomes for your patients with these AANP psychiatry and mental health resources.

By Alex Fernandez

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