Drake University co-hosted a summit on Aug. 2 to help Iowa health care, regulatory, insurance and other professionals understand the severity of the nation’s opioid epidemic and begin a coordinated discussion on prevention and treatment.
The forum titled “Prescription Pain Killers and the Heroin Epidemic” was hosted by The Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and the US Attorney’s Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa. Discussion points at the free event included prescription painkillers, opioid abuse and the nation’s heroin epidemic.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 4 out of 5 current heroin users starting on prescription opioids, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office.
“Prescription drugs are important for patients with acute or chronic pain, however, there has been an increased usage of medications like opioids that have led to abuse, addiction and overdose. There were nearly 100 professionals at this event which indicated the seriousness of this public health issue,” said Renae Chesnut, dean of the Drake University College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “Our pharmacy program partnered with the Iowa-based U.S. Attorney’s Offices to use this forum as an opportunity to collaborate and educate on prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies.”
Chesnut moderated the forum and additional Drake College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences participants included Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Frank Caligiuri, Associate Professor of Pharmacy Practice Sarah Grady, and Associate Professor of Pharmacology Craige Wrenn. The participating Drake staff members will use education tips from the forum in current and future coursework in the classroom.
“(At the conference) we were able to provide education on known risk factors that increase a patient’s potential for opioid-related harms and increase awareness among the community. In class, we will be reinforcing these risk factors with students and offer strategies to mitigate them. Examples include training students on how to use the prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) and on how the new naloxone laws (opioid antidote) will affect their future practice as a pharmacist,” said Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice Frank Caligiuri.
In mid-July, 46 state governors, including Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, signed a Compact to Fight Opioid Addiction. The compact commits governors to new steps to reduce inappropriate prescription of opioids, to reframe the nation’s understanding of opioids and addiction, and ensure a pathway for recovery for individuals suffering from addiction. On July 22, President Obama signed a new law that seeks to address America’s opioid crisis through treatment and overdose prevention and includes special consideration for babies born addicted to the drugs.
Drake College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences also held an evening community event to help educate the media, parents and other community members. The college continues to be involved in making a difference by participating in additional educational efforts on and off-campus with the US Attorneys Offices for the Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, Iowa Department of Public Health, practitioner groups, student organizations, and area high schools.