This content is provided by physicians at SAMHSA to reach patient-facing providers with a simple message: there is a tremendous need for your skills and attention to address the opioid crisis. The opioid crisis is being fought against at all levels of government, but it cannot be won by regulations alone. We understand the futility of regulations and government actions in the face of the drug addiction crisis if providers aren’t taking action. We understand that patients who present with opioid addiction are often more burdensome, less compliant, and more complex than other populations, but we owe more to these people trapped in our imperfect healthcare system. Far too few people living with opioid addiction well ever seek help for their condition. We must look at the dismal engagement rates and strive to do more. More training to equip providers to treat them, more waivered healthcare professionals to prescribe medications that combat addiction, more discovery of local treatment programs that accept Medicaid and Medicare, more diligence in referring patients to effective treatment programs. We also need more perseverance and more compassion. No doctor would turn away a diabetic patient because that person had “relapsed” into unhealthy habits, yet we are so fast to do that with chronic brain disease. As of the time of this writing, there are just above 62,000 healthcare professionals with the Data 2000 waiver, meaning that they can write scripts for medications for opioid addiction. There are also many proven rehabilitation programs to individuals with this chronic brain disease throughout Ohio that accept Medicaid and Medicare. Broadly speaking, the United States has the infrastructure and knowledge to effectively treat the over 2 million people facing opioid addiction. We need action. This is not to point fingers or place blame, I just want to point out what we have at our fingertips to address this public health crisis, which in turn impacts our insurance and healthcare structure, economic viability, education system, and society at large. Medical school and continuing education have likely failed to prepare you for this crisis, but you are empowered to make a difference nonetheless. Your impact will be felt in healthcare and beyond. We understand the fear of regulatory backlash beaten into our heads by negative media coverage. Let me assure you that there is nothing to fear: office raids, battered down doors, frozen assets, and practices being shut down almost never happen. In fact, with almost 1.7 million DEA-registered prescribers, less than 80 cumulative (or less than .005%) had any administrative action whatsoever taken against them. Think of it this way, for every 25,000 registered providers, only 1 would face any sort of scrutiny from the DEA. Those are pretty good odds, if you ask me! We must face this vulnerable patient population and come to their aid. Who among us hasn’t lost a friend, classmate, neighbor, or even coworker to this tragic disease? We have the knowledge, and the infrastructure is built. It is up to us to start using the tools appropriately. The evidence is clear: we as medical professionals need to screen for opioid addiction and refer to proper treatment. At SAMHSA, we stand ready to provide value and help providers better serve patients battling substance use disorder. Learn more here.
August 21, 2019