During the month of June we observe National Safety Month to focus on reducing leading causes of injury and death. The theme this year is “Keep Each Other Safe”. Part of keeping each other safe includes educating our co-workers, patients, and loved ones about the dangers of drug misuse and abuse.
Prescription drug misuse and abuse is an epidemic that spans across the entire nation. It does not discriminate against gender, race, or social class. This epidemic has impacted thousands of people. Opioids include prescription opioids such as oxycodone, and nonprescription street drugs, such as heroin, killed more than 33,000 people in 2015.
Reducing medication misuse and diversion in our communities while addressing all facets of pain management using a holistic, comprehensive, and interdisciplinary approach is a clinical and public health priority at the Indian Health Service. IHS is engaging health care professionals and other agencies including the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Drug Enforcement Agency and the United States Public Health Service to raise awareness and implement new tools to combat misuse and abuse of prescription opioids and heroin.
For instance, the Indian Health Service Heroin, Opioid, and Pain Efforts (HOPE) Committee is working diligently to promote best and promising practices to reduce harm from opioid misuse and abuse. The Agency is also partnering with law enforcement agencies in local communities and with our providers to increase awareness and access to naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal agent. Additionally, our pharmacists are promoting the safe and responsible disposal of unused or unwanted controlled substance medications. If you have controlled substances you need discarded, please contact your pharmacy.
IHS is in the process of revising its website content to share best practices aimed at prevention of drug-related harm by supporting evidence-based policy and practice; to ultimately reduce the stigma of addiction .
Finally, Indian Health Service has implemented a policy requirement surrounding utilization of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). PDMPs are operational in most states and serve as a tool for prescribers and pharmacists to monitor and deter prescription medication misuse, abuse, addiction, and diversion. Indian Health Service prescribers and pharmacists access these databases to support safe prescription opioid use, check for undertreated pain, access for misuse or multiple prescribers, and determine adherence with treatment plan.
All of these efforts promote the safe and effective use of opioids and reduce harm resulting from unintentional overdoses attributed to prescription opioids and heroin.