This nation’s opioid crisis continues to worsen, but that does not mean that nothing is being done to address the problem. As thousands lose their lives to opioid-related overdoses, there are more task forces and programs being put in place to reduce access to these dangerous drugs, lower the rates of overdose deaths, and offer opioid addiction treatment to people who are suffering. One of those task forces just released its annual progress report on the status of its efforts.
What is the AMA Opioid Task Force?
The American Medical Association (AMA) convened more than 25 national, state, specialty, and other healthcare associations in 2014 with the goal of reducing this nation’s burden from opioid misuse, overdose, and death.
The task force’s goals were to identify key areas where physicians would have a strong impact on the crisis. The group has released annual progress reports with areas of improvement as well as areas that need further focus going forward.
Is Progress Being Made to Address Opioid Addiction in the U.S.?
The 2018 AMA Opioid Task Force Progress Report was released in April of this year. The report reveals that clinicians are taking a leading role in battling the nation’s opioid crisis by addressing prescription opioid misuse and making certain types of treatment more accessible.
Between 2013 and 2017, there were 22.2 percent fewer prescriptions for opioids written in the U.S., dropping from 251.8 million to 196 million. In the past five years, there have been decreases in opioid prescriptions in all 50 states. From 2016 to 2017 alone, there was a nine percent reduction in these figures nationwide.
What Strategies Are Being Used to Battle The Nation’s Opioid Crisis?
The task force is doing much more than just writing fewer prescriptions for painkillers. Through a series of targeted programs, it has been able to help healthcare providers identify potential cases of opioid misuse, educate providers and patients, and provide the best possible treatment options to those who have an opioid use disorder.
The task force has advocated for the expanded adoption of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs), which are databases that help clinicians make decisions about patient prescriptions. The use rate and integration of these systems have soared in the past several years.
In 2017, there were more than 1.5 million healthcare professionals registered in PDMPs, up from just over 471,000 in 2014. Also last year, there were 300.4 million PDMP queries on state systems, a 121 percent increase from the prior year and a 389 percent increase from 2014.
Physicians are now more likely to prescribe the life-saving drug naloxone to patients or concerned loved ones. In 2017, these prescriptions more than doubled from the prior year to a total of 8,000 per week.
Clinicians are also boosting access to medication-assisted treatment in two ways. First, over 50,000 physicians have been trained in dispensing buprenorphine, an increase of 42.2 percent from the prior year. Second, barriers to treatment are being eliminated by requiring that insurers, including Medicaid, approve this care without prior authorization.
There has also been an increase in opioid addiction-related training and education in the healthcare field. Online education materials on the AMA’s website related to opioid prescriptions, pain management, and screening for an opioid use disorder have been accessed more than 19,000 times in the past year.
What Areas Does the AMA See as Still Needing Improvement?
These are the largest decreases in opioid prescriptions in 25 years in this country. While the healthcare community is becoming increasingly cautious with these drugs, the crisis continues thanks to illicit alternatives such as heroin and fentanyl. Even so, many of the people who misuse these drugs are exposed to health care providers, who have the opportunity to influence outcomes. The AMA will continue its efforts with even more initiatives in the future.
Even though significant progress has been made, the task force has additional recommendations to continue the momentum. These include:
- All private and public payers should make sure that all FDA-approved formulary versions of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) are approved and remove any barriers to treatment such as requiring prior authorization.
- Regulators and policymakers should increase enforcement and oversight of parity laws for substance use disorders and mental health to ensure patients receive the care they need.
- All private and public payers – as well as pharmacy benefit management companies – need to make sure that patients have access to low-cost, non-opioid pain treatment.
- End the stigma of addiction by ensuring that patients with a substance use disorder receive the same compassion and care as any other patient with a chronic medical condition.
Are Florida Physicians Employing Similar Strategies to Combat Opioid Addiction?
Florida has also taken specific measures to address the opioid epidemic. On a statewide level, it has created Florida’s Opioid State Targeted Response Project, which was created to respond to the ongoing crisis by providing access to prevention initiatives, medication-assisted treatment, and addiction recovery support services.
Specifically, there will be funds allocated to teach middle and high school students in certain high-need counties life-skills that are proven to prevent the misuse of prescription opioids. There is also an allocation for the purchase and distribution of naloxone to prevent further overdose deaths.
Underinsured and uninsured people with an opioid use disorder will have more access to medication-assisted treatment as well as other Florida addiction treatment resources. The goal is to extend treatment to as many as 5,578 people over a two-year period.
Where You Can Turn for Opioid Addiction Treatment
If you or any of your loved ones are struggling with an opioid use disorder, this is a dangerous situation. Opioid misuse and addiction can lead to negative health outcomes, including overdose and death. You do not have to face these struggles alone, and The Orlando Recovery Center has professionals who are ready to step in and help you find a new way to live.
Our specialized drug treatment programs address opioid detox and then transition into the treatment program that best fits your needs. Contact us now to get more information about our treatment programs and take the first step in breaking free from opioids.