It’s all over the news today and is top-of-mind for many politicians and healthcare leaders. The opioid epidemic has wreaked havoc on communities across the United States. Tragically, millions of lives are affected. For those of us fortunate enough to have remained immune from the consequences, it’s easy to ignore the crisis.
However, responsible healthcare organizations need to take action. Many patients are suffering from opioid addiction.
Alarming Snapshot (Why it Matters to You and Your Company)
- 130 Americans die EVERY day from opioid-related overdoses
- Opioid-related deaths now exceed those from car accidents
- In 2018, more Americans died from an opioid overdose than the total number of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War
- In total, opioid abuse costs the United States $500 billion annually
- Opioid abuse costs U.S. employers an estimated $20 billion in lost productivity
How Can Healthcare Organizations Do Their Part to Manage the Opioid Crisis?
Education – As detailed in the above-referenced stats, opioid abuse not only affects your patients, but it also likely impacts members of your team. Sadly, nurses and medical workers are not immune to the devastating consequences. In fact, people working in healthcare often have the greatest access to common prescription opioids like Vicodin and Oxycontin.
Company leadership has a responsibility to help educate both patients and employees on the potential risks of opioid use. Many abusers start off as legitimate recipients of pain medications due to illness or injury and later develop dependency. Nobody should judge these victims harshly but rather work on ways to proactively prevent abuse through education.
Organizations should include opioid-abuse educational materials in their patient and employee newsletters. They should also send internal company emails with resources explaining the opioid epidemic and the potential dangers of using pain medications. Finally, companies should provide information on alternatives to opioid pain management. These options include non-addictive drugs like skeletal muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories. Heat therapy and massage may also assist those with lower back pain, which is common among nurses.
Dependency & Treatment Resources – What can be done to assist staff or patients who already struggle with opioid dependency? Companies may consider sending regular newsletters and emails to both patients and employees that detail options for opioid abusers. These should be written in a solution-oriented and non-judgmental fashion. A good resource will include contact information for treatment centers and drug counseling services. Any electronic or print materials should also explain that health insurance may cover treatment costs.
Ultimately, solutions to the opioid crisis are not simple. Managing the epidemic will take time and resolve. Healthcare companies are on the front-line and must do their part help the cause. Both patients and employees, including nurses and medical staff, may be victims. Organizations that work to educate their teams and communities on opioid abuse prevention and treatment will greatly help the cause!
San Diego healthcare companies looking for additional nurses or staff should also consider expert recruiting services.