Combatting the Opioid Crisis with Research and Education

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Opioid Online Course for Non-Prescribing Health Care Providers

U-M has launched a new Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) designed to help non-prescribing health care providers understand the opioid crisis. The self-paced MOOC includes five modules: Epidemiology of the Opioid Crisis; Understanding of Pain and Drug Targeting; Prevention of Misuse and Abuse; Clinical Care and Population Health; Addiction Treatment, Recovery, and Public Policy Impact. Participants can complete all (or any) modules in any order, and the course has been approved for continuing education credits in several fields.


U.S.-Born Residents More Likely than Immigrants to Use Opioids

U.S.-born residents are more than five times as likely to use prescription opioids than new immigrants, according to a new U-M and Dartmouth University study. Researchers examined the influence of American culture on opioid use among an estimated 42 million adult immigrants and found that the increased opioid use among U.S.-born residents remained even after controlling for pain levels, health care access, and income. Study co-author Matthew A. Davis, Ph.D., M.P.H., an associate professor of learning health sciences at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of nursing at the U-M School of Nursing, says the research is a good example of the immigrant paradox. “New immigrants, despite being from disadvantaged backgrounds, have better health than more advantaged non-immigrants,” says Davis. He acknowledges more studies are needed to determine the reasons for increased opioid use in American culture, but says, “It could be related to the perception of pain in the United States, specifically pain being observed more as a symptom that has to be treated versus a normal, unfortunate part of everyday life.”


Many Lupus Patients Use Prescription Opioids Despite a Lack of Efficacy

Nearly one in three lupus patients uses prescription opioids for chronic pain, according to a new U-M study. Though there’s little evidence that opioids effectively reduce pain from rheumatic diseases, the majority of lupus patients using prescription opioids had been on them for longer than a year. The study also found that lupus patients who had at least one emergency department visit in the last year were twice as likely to use prescription opioids as those who hadn’t visited the emergency department. Lead author Emily Somers, Ph.D., Sc.M., professor internal medicine and of obstetrics and gynecology at the U-M Medical School and associate professor of environmental health sciences at the U-M School of Public Health, says health care providers should consider non-opioid pain management strategies, including non-drug options such as physical activity and self-management education.


Opioid Summit Focuses on Stigma and Solutions

A joint U-M and Harvard University summit in October focused on the ways cultural stigma of opioid use keeps users from getting help, whether by undermining their motivation to seek treatment or by shaming them when they do come forward. U-M physicians and others spoke on topics ranging from comprehending the opioid crisis to strategies for managing it. “Understanding what’s happening in real time for overdoses is incredibly important,” says Rebecca Cunningham, M.D., the William G. Barsan Collegiate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the U-M Medical School and professor of health behavior and health education at the U-M School of Public Health, who moderated a panel on “Finding Balance in Policy and Enforcement Tools to Control Opioid Access” (accessible on the summit website). “It can take 16-18 months to get that information back into the local county and community hands, and that’s simply too long to be actionable in an epidemic that’s moving this quickly. We’ve created our system for opioid surveillance … [and we’re] giving those reports back to local counties across Michigan weekly, so that they can, in real time, improve their action on the ground.”