Nurses Role in Combating Opioid Addiction
Opioids, also referred to as narcotics, are widely used in the healthcare setting for pain management. They include drugs such as tramadol, hydrocodone, and fentanyl, just to mention a few. Addiction is one of the risks associated with opioid consumption. The abuse or dependence on opioid is an epidemic and a public health concern as it is one of the main causes of death in the United States (American Nurses Association, 2016). Nurses play a major role in the management of the opioid crisis. This paper will discuss the role of nurses in combating addiction to opioids, and the bad stigmas and attitudes on patients who abuse opioids. Moreover, the paper will explain why education training on opioid is vital for professional nurses, and the current legislative initiatives that empower and support the nurses in curbing the opioid addiction problem.
The role of nurses in combating opioid addiction
Nurses help to fight the opioid epidemic by taking the leading role. In other words, the nurses are at the frontline when it comes to dealing with the abuse of prescription painkillers. For one, registered nurses have the necessary experience to assess, diagnose, and manage individuals who are dependent on opioids. Training in nursing ensures that individuals are equipped with the necessary skills to solve a wide range of health issues, including drug-related problems. As such, nurses not only know what signs to check for to determine opioid overdose on a patient, but they also know what treatment to apply on people who struggle with opioid abuse (Volkow & Collins, 2017). For instance, a nurse practitioner may recommend a Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) after screening and detecting opioid abuse on a patient. Therefore, through proper screening, diagnosis, and treatment, nurses help to reduce and prevent deaths that result from opioid addiction.
Nurses also play a significant role in battling the abuse of prescription painkillers by engaging in community educational programs across the country. They increase awareness about the adverse effects of the use of opioids. They not only teach how the drugs can be addictive but also, how the abuse of various opioids accounts for the largest percentage of substance abuse-related deaths in the U.S. Most importantly, nurses sensitize the community on the importance of using other pain medication options such as NSAIDs instead of opioids (American Nurses Association, 2016). Since nurses are highly concerned with their patients’ well-being, they teach people on how to keep opioids safely as well as how to dispose of them properly. This further helps to deal with the opioid epidemic by preventing opioid diversion.
Negative stigmas and attitudes towards patients abusing of opioids
There are multiple negative perceptions and stigmas on individuals who are addicted or rather, who abuse opioids in the United States. One of the most common attitudes toward people who depend on opioids is that it is a self-inflicted problem. As such, it is often considered an individual’s fault when one is an opioid abuser, and that one can change if they want. Most people who struggle with this issue in the U.S. are categorized together with other drug abusers. The physicians, and specifically the nurses have been reported to view patients with opioid dependency as substance abusers (Katz et al., 2013). Multiple studies have concluded that the physicians’ willingness to help patients with drug addiction problems may be compromised if they have a bad attitude towards them. Besides, negative stigmas projected on opioid users may lower their self-esteem and, lead to mental torture as well as render them reluctant to seek the necessary treatment or assistance.
The importance of opioid education training for professional nurses
Since a large percent of drug-related deaths in the United States of America are attributed to opioid addiction, a comprehensive plan that entails educating professional nurses is necessary to curb this public health concern. Even though qualified nurses are highly skilled to assess, diagnose, and manage patients who struggle with opioid abuse, it is crucial to offer them more training and education on the issue. Advanced teaching on opioid enables the registered nurses to prescribe opioids safely and effectively (American Nurses Association, 2016). Nurse practitioners also, acquire extensive knowledge on the use of opioids, and the issues surrounding their usage. Besides, through education training on opioids expert nurses familiarize and become more capable of utilizing evidence-based pain management properly. Eventually, this makes it easier to deal with the opioid crisis.
Current legislative initiatives that empower and support nurses fight to curb the opioid epidemic
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is one of the legislatures in place that supports nurses in combating the opioid addiction problem in the United States. It enables people who have been insured under the Medicaid health program to access treatment. More so, it allows individuals to have addiction treatment benefits. With this, opioid abusers can easily seek treatment in health facilities, making the nurses’ work simpler. Access to Naloxone is another initiative by the DHHS, which has played a significant role in empowering nurses to fight the opioid epidemic. Naloxone is used in the management of opioids overdose such as heroin and morphine (American Nurses Association, 2017). The treatment has been of great help as many opioid abuse patients have found success.
In conclusion, nurses play a leading role in combating the opioid crisis. They are highly skilled to assess, diagnose, and administer treatment on opioid abusers. Nurses also try to solve the opioid epidemic participating in educational programs based on opioids in the community. Most people see opioid addiction as a self-caused problem, and this makes individuals who are dependent on opioids to be treated like other substance abusers. Advanced opioid educational training for specialist nurses mostly important as it helps them to prescribe painkillers with care and efficiency. ACA and Naloxone accessibility are some of the initiatives that support the nurses’ battle on opioid addiction.
American Nurses Association. (2016). Nursing’s Role in Addressing the Nation’s Opioid Crisis.
American Nurses Association. (2017). Opiate crisis and healthcare reform in America: A review for nurses. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.
Katz, N. P., Birnbaum, H., Brennan, M. J., Freedman, J. D., Gilmore, G. P., Jay, D., … & White, A. G. (2013). Prescription opioid abuse: challenges and opportunities for payers. The American journal of managed care, 19(4), 295.
Volkow, N. D., & Collins, F. S. (2017). The role of science in addressing the opioid crisis. New England Journal of Medicine, 377(4), 391-394.